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Introducing a British Blogger

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

By Paul Willgoss

How to start?

At the beginning:
It was a dark and stormy night. As the small blue baby was born, little did the world know what was to come…

At the second beginning:
The surgeon came out and said that as far as he knew it was a successful operation, but the next 24-48 hours would be critical…

Some random point in the recent past:
The hiker picked up his pack, squinted through the fog at the looming hill, and trudged on…

Another random point in the recent past:
The newly appointed member of the Order of the British Empire shook his Sovereign’s hand and walked off through Buckingham Palace with his medal affixed to his lapel…

A further random point in the recent past:
The cardiologist looked at his notes. 2:38 for a half marathon, he said—going for faster this year? Yes, said the patient…


So that’s the start of the introduction to me. The full name is Paul Willgoss; I’m an adult with congenital heart disease. I have tetralogy of Fallot, and like many of us I have more than four things wrong with my heart. I’m also type 2 diabetic, which is just plumb bad luck.

What else should you know? Well, if you’ve not guessed I’m British, and what we tend to call a GUCH (Grown Up with Congenital Heart Disease). I’m heavily involved in British charities for children with heart conditions (I’m the Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Children’s Heart Federation) and work with my peers across Europe to share learning and experience so that all of us benefit.

At work I’ve what we call a twin-track career. My home career is as a scientist with another track of being a corporate services specialist—with a background in HR and programme management. One of the things I’ve been lucky with is my employer, and almost without exception my managers have always seen the person and not been too worried by the heart condition.

I’m a hiker, both solo and leading groups of other walkers with heart conditions either on day walks or on multi-day hikes across the country. I’ve been asked to split my blog between writing about my life with a CHD and my endurance events; I will try and do both, because one feeds into the other and back again.

For instance, someone recently told me I shouldn’t do all this running because she knew someone who had a bad heart (condition not specified) who was recommended to do running and then dropped dead. This wasn’t a nice thing to read three weeks before a marathon, or indeed a couple of days after I set a new personal best for a half marathon!

My heart condition is monitored closely with the full set of echo and ECG tests every year, and rotates me through some of the less routine tests as he see fit. I also monitor my heart, both my general “aches and pains” monitoring and by using a heart rate monitor for most of my activities. I know when I’m getting a cold (resting heart rate goes up by 10), I know when I’ve had a decent curry (Heart rate goes up by 20—I like my curries hot!), and I also know when I’m going along at my steady pace where my heart rate should be. I know the heart rate monitor I use will let me know if I start getting tachycardia or push myself too hard. I also can see over the years that my resting heart rate has come down; my exercise tolerance has increased and exercise heart rate has stayed steady as I’ve run more and walked less.

I hope my English version of English isn’t too Shakespearian, and that you find something of interest in this my first blog.


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The contents of this blog are presented for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Always consult your physicians with your questions and concerns.