WHEN Susan McKenna went to hospital for a routine check-up she never imagined she would discover she had a life-threatening heart defect.
The grandmother, aged 63, from Tonge Moor, was being prepared for an operation to help with her carpal tunnel syndrome — a condition that can cause numbness in the fingers and thumbs — when staff discovered an irregular heartbeat.
Further tests revealed Mrs McKenna has the rare, life-threatening heart condition noncompaction cardiomyopathy.
It is a congenital condition that can affect children and adults, and results from the failure to build cardiac muscle during the period when an embryo forms and develops.
Mrs McKenna said the news came as “a real shock”, adding: “It was awful, I was so surprised.”
She was put on water tablets and beta blockers before being fitted with what an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) — a small battery-powered electrical device that is programmed to correct certain heart defects by delivering a jolt of electricity.
Mrs McKenna said: “The device connects three leads into my heart, so if I ever have a cardiac incident, it gives me a shock — it’s a really weird feeling.”
For Mrs McKenna, one of the biggest worries was finding out that her condition is hereditary.
She made sure all her family members were tested and was relieved to find out that they were all right — but she felt she could do more.
As her granddaughter, Lila McKenna, aged seven, is a pupil at Highfield Primary School in Farnworth, Mrs McKenna wanted to prepare for any eventuality, so she decided to save up for a defibrillator for the school.
She said: “It wasn’t just for Lila, I kept thinking about all the kids who could have a similar condition and not know it. I hope this will help if anything ever happens at the school.
“It gives me peace of mind to think that Lila and her friends will be prepared for any events, although, of course, we hope it won’t come to that.”
Since being diagnosed, Mrs McKenna, who is the deputy manager of a children’s home, has had to go into semi-retirement, but she says the work done with staff at the Royal Bolton Hospital has given her renewed energy and helped her to relax.