‘I feel damn lucky’: Rise Park man first to undergo pioneering stem cell surgery after heart attack

18:00 02 March 2014

Jesse Freeman,  71, had stem cells from his bone marrow injected into his heart after he had a cardiac arrest. With his wife Christine, 67

Jesse Freeman, 71, had stem cells from his bone marrow injected into his heart after he had a cardiac arrest. With his wife Christine, 67


A 71-year-old man has become one of the first heart attack victims to receive pioneering stem cell surgery to see if it will help his recovery.

Early birthday present for Jesse

“On March 12, I will be 72, so the stem cell surgery for me is an early birthday present – just to be alive,” admits Jesse Freeman.

“I was never ill in my life, then one day I was indoors and didn’t feel great. I thought it was an infection that started in my jaw, then spread to my chest. I had a shower and drove down to Harold Wood walk-in centre.

“I had extremely high blood pressure and they told me I had had a heart attack.

“They took me to The London Chest Hospital and I was being operated on within 10 minutes.

“The hospital saved my life – they removed the blockage and put in a wire mesh stent to keep the artery open.

“The doctors asked me while I was in recovery if I would take part in the stem cell trial.

“I was a perfect candidate, with only 45 per cent of my heart working.

“My hope is that they will regenerate and give me ability and a normal life cycle.

“I feel damn lucky – the stem cell surgery could not have happened at a better time.

“I am grateful to be part of a pioneering programme.”

The procedure was carried out by surgeons at The London Chest Hospital on Jesse Freeman, of Garry Way, Rise Park, and another patient.

They are among the first of 3,000 patients in a Europe-wide trial to test whether administering a patient’s stem cells within five days of a heart attack will prolong life.

Incisions were made without general anaesthetic to take bone marrow from the patients which was then infused into the heart. Using the body’s own stem cells vastly reduces risk of rejection and speeds recovery.

Mr Freeman, a grandfather of three and a chauffeur for a firm in Hornchurch, and the other patient were both up and about within two days following their operations.


The landmark procedure is being led by Barts Health NHS Trust with Queen Mary College and University College London.

It is hoped that it could increase survival rates by a quarter among patients having heart attacks.

Consultant cardiologist Prof Anthony Mathur said: “The study is the biggest and most comprehensive trial of its kind in the world and follows successful trials.

“It has taken two years to get to the point where we are ready to accept patients, but we have now reached that stage and we are all very excited.

“Our studies will tell us if adult stem cells from bone marrow can repair damaged hearts and, if so, how these cells should be administered to patients.

“Stem cells are the body’s master cells which can turn into almost any other type of cell in the body, replacing damaged cells.”

The study has been made possible thanks to £5.9million from the European Commission and involves 19 partners in 10 European countries.


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