A DAD whose life depends on a rare battery-powered artificial heart is campaigning for greater awareness of his life-threatening condition after he said he had to fight for a blue badge disability parking permit.
Tony Fawlk, 51, from Uplands, has been lucky to survive what doctors call a ‘widowmaker’s heart attack’ late last year.
After another relapse in January, Tony underwent pioneering surgery to have a metal pump, called a Ventricular Left Assist Device (VLAD), implanted into his heart to help keep him alive.
But applying for a ‘blue badge’ permit, to allow wife Sharon to park closer to essential amenities such as his frequent medical check-ups, has not been straightforward, he said.
Tony was initially sent a letter from Gloucestershire County Council stating that he would have to wait at least seven weeks for an in-person assessment of his capabilities.
Sharon, who is sole carer for her husband and main breadwinner for their family of four, was forced to call the council to tell them the decision would put them under unnecessary strain.
“I immediately rang up the council to complain about the insensitively-worded letter which didn’t seem to acknowledge the severity of Tony’s medical history,” she said.
“I had to tell them, given that time is now of the essence for us, not least because Tony now struggles to walk distance but that his artificial heart is now wholly reliant on batteries that need to be changed every four to six hours.”
Tony is extremely proud of how his wife, as well as his two daughters, have risen to the challenge that his new way of life presents.
“I went in for the assessment last Tuesday but I feel this was an unnecessary trip if only the council had understood that the VLAD is a last-ditch attempt for heart failure patients with no current redress for transplant,” he said.
Tony has now received word from the county council that he has been successful in his permit application, and he has asked the authority to improve the wording of letters on the subject to prevent misunderstanding for others.
A spokesman for the county council said: “We cannot comment on individual cases, however where we require more information about a person’s condition to allow us to confirm their eligibility for a blue badge, we may invite them to attend an assessment clinic or to forward relevant supporting documentation from their doctor. A request for further information does not represent the outcome of an application, as a decision is made only upon receipt and assessment of the additional information.”
According to the British Heart Foundation, the approximate number of people in the UK currently living with an LVAD is around 100, with the number of Britons who have an LVAD implanted each year being just 80.
The number of heart transplants performed in the UK in 2011/12 was 138.