A MAN with a history of serious health problems has praised South Bucks Hospice’s Cardiac Support Group – and is urging others to use the free service.

Philip Leach, 70, from High Wycombe, has been on medication since 2005 for a chronic heart condition called Cardiomyopathy.

In 2008, he says his life was in the balance when he suffered a ruptured aorta. This was quickly followed by a blood clot in his foot, deep vein thrombosis in his leg and a mini-stroke in the ambulance on his way home from hospital.

Mr Leach, a retired care home administrator, says the support group at the hospice has taught him how to deal effectively with breathlessness, as well as give him a large amount of invaluable information. The group, which meets once a month on Friday mornings, is run by former Wycombe Hospital cardiac nurse Sue Cartwright, the hospice’s deputy head of nursing.

“Sue is brilliant. She tells you things in a language you can understand. I have learnt to control my breathing after she told me how to breathe properly if I get breathless,” said Mr Leach, who has been attending the group regularly for a year at the hospice in High Wycombe.

The group members enjoy a coffee and a chat and hearing each others’ stories. Mr Leach added: “Sue gives you a lot of information, while the whole ambience of the hospice is nice. It’s a lovely place.”

Mr Leach, a married man with grown-up children, had other health issues before suffering from his heart condition.

He was in two serious car crashes, both times as a passenger, when he was a teenager in his native Yorkshire.

“I was in an accident at 17, going through the windscreen of a car, suffering concussion, a broken jaw and facial scarring,” he said.

“Then, at 18, I was in another car accident and had to have a brain operation, facial reconstruction and suffered two punctured lungs. Every rib was fractured and my right arm was rebuilt.”

Then in 1978, he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a neurological condition which can seriously affect the use of your legs and arms.

“I was told recovery would be three to four years and I thought to myself, no way. I used to go swimming regularly and got myself right within six months.”

However, after his frequent stays in hospital and the treatment given to him by the medical profession, Mr Leach is determined to ‘put something back’. As a result, he is appealing to other cardiac patients to join the hospice group and get the type of help he has been given. My philosophy is you get these problems and you have to get on with life. You can’t go back – you have to go forward,” he said.

The support group, which deals with patients suffering from minor to major heart problems, has enjoyed a successful first year.

Mr Leach, however, said: “Other people should join the group – it gives knowledge and confidence and is beneficial and enjoyable, and you look forward to the meetings.

“My message to others is come along because you will learn things you don’t know and you will get a better understanding of your problems.”

Ring 01494 552750 or email nurses@sbhospice.org.uk.