LIFE-SAVER: Grandmother praises Vic's heart surgeon

A pensioner who was told she would die if she didn't have an urgent and dangerous operation has spoken of her ordeal.

Friday, 13th January 2017, 11:10 am
Updated Friday, 13th January 2017, 11:11 am
Mary Lowe and son Paul Aspinall

Mary Lowe, 73, needed emergency heart surgery after her aorta – the body’s main artery – split, and was told there was also a one in three chance of dying on the surgeon’s table.

The great-grandmother of six, who lives in St Annes, has now praised staff at Blackpool Victoria Hospital’s Cardiac Centre, including Mohamad Nidal Bittar – the man she credits with saving her life.

“I was basically told I needed a dangerous operation there and then and that every minute was vital to my chances of survival,” she said.

Mohamad Nidal Bittar (bearded in centre) with the Lancashire Cardiac Centre team

“It certainly wasn’t what I was expecting to hear especially when I was told there was a one in three chance of not surviving but I had no choice or I would have died.

“It was as simple as that and although I don’t know much about what happened after that I am alive today because of the skills of the doctor who diagnosed me straight away and the surgeon, Mr Bittar who was absolutely amazing and I am hoping 2017 is a much better year than the last one. He saved my life and I can’t say any more than that.”

Mrs Lowe was diagnosed with Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA), a rare condition where arteries in the head and neck become inflamed, following a month-long headache.

She was taken to hospital after waking up in June unable to move, and told she needed emergency surgery.

Mohamad Nidal Bittar (bearded in centre) with the Lancashire Cardiac Centre team

Mr Bittar said: “Mary’s operation was a difficult one but we managed to save her successfully. In the last few months four patients presented with a similar condition and survived thanks to the dedication of my team.”


Graduating from Aleppo University Medical School in Syria in 1991, Mohamad Nidal Bittar completed a residency at Damascus Central Hospital before training in the surgical management of heart failure in Berlin.

After further studying at Manchester Uni, he was appointed consultant cardiothoracic surgeon at Blackpool in 2008.

He has since been praised for saving multiple lives, including that of former Wyre mayor Len Jolley – who had just 20 per cent chance of survival – in 2013.

He has also helped raised thousands for the Vic’s Blue Skies Hospital Fund. One feat saw him biking across a Jordanian desert, while he also cycled from London to Paris last year.