Story

Patient No.1: Balloon dilatation is standard today

Last updated on February 29, 2024 First published on January 22, 2024

Every year, millions of heart patients worldwide are saved from death by balloon dilatation. Dölf Bachmann was the first patient for whom this treatment method was used 45 years ago.

The pain in my chest had been bothering me for some time. When they got worse and worse, I got scared and went to the GP. He sent me on to the hospital in Baden. They didn’t take my complaints seriously at first. I was only transferred to the university hospital by ambulance when my ECG values plummeted. There I was, lying in a room with six beds, waiting for my heart operation. The other fellow sufferers in the room, all heart patients, proudly showed me the large scars on their chests. I dreaded the idea of waking up the next day with such an ugly scar. Dr. Andreas Grüntzig came to my bedside and explained that he had been looking for a patient who could be treated with his new surgical method for some time.

Grüntzig outlined the balloon dilation procedure to me down to the last detail. I was fascinated by how simple and gentle this procedure was compared to a classic heart operation. I immediately agreed to the operation simply because I didn’t want to have a scar on my breast.

I wasn’t worried that I would be the very first patient. Then the time had come: I was able to follow everything during the procedure. The procedure went smoothly and afterwards I walked back to the patient’s room. My roommates were amazed that I was already back on my feet and didn’t have a big scar on my chest. They thought I hadn’t even had the operation yet. I then replied that everything had been mended perfectly.

The results of the first stress tests after the operation were already worlds better than before. I was soon dismissed with the admonition to refrain from smoking in future. When I got home, I thought I could smoke another cheroot. After a few puffs I felt sick to my stomach. I knew then that I had to give up smoking completely. Apart from the involuntary abstinence from smoking, I had almost no complaints after the operation. And it stayed that way for many decades.

When I think back to the operation today, I am very grateful for it. I enjoy life every day. I am now 85 years old, and in the last 45 years since the operation I have had a full life – both professionally and privately. None of this would have been possible without the University Hospital and Dr. Grüntzig. I was really incredibly lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

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