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‘Ticking timebomb’ as Oban dad refused ‘life-saving surgery’ unless he has a stroke

Scott Rowan from Oban has a hole in his heart - but has been told he can not have an operation.

Scott Rowan and baby Effie
Scott Rowan with one of his two children. Image: Supplied by Mr Rowan

A dad-of-two from Oban has been told he is not eligible for an operation that could save his life, despite living with a hole in his heart.

33-year-old Scott Rowan only found out he was living with a life-threatening condition after suffering from symptoms that cost him the job as a diver he loves.

He is now faced with a £20,000 bill to pay for his own treatment.

Horrifyingly he says has been told if he has a stroke he would then be eligible for an operation on the NHS.

Scott Rowan with partner Courtney Mcluckie and children Amber and Effie.
Scott Rowan with partner Courtney Mcluckie and children Amber and Effie. Image: Supplied.

Scott and partner Courtney have two children Amber, 5, and Effie who is only six months old.

Oban dad Scott Rowan says it’s ‘unfair’

He is living with a condition known as Patent Foraman Ovale (PFO) better known as a hole in the heart.

PFO is a hole between the left and right atria in the upper chambers of the heart.

This hole exists in everyone before birth, but most often closes shortly after being born.

PFO is what the hole is called when it fails to close naturally.

Scott’s diagnosis is a further blow after the family lost mum Allison Gourlay back in 2017 at the age of 47. She died from the same condition as Scott. A cousin has also been diagnosed with PFO.

A condition he says his friends and family describe as a “ticking time bomb”.

Scott, who was a marine diver before his diagnosis a few months ago, explains: “I was diving and I took some funny turns.

“I went to my GP and I was referred to a consultant who found I did have PFO, after investigations.

Scott Rowan in running gear in Oban.
Scott is a keen runner but is waiting to see medics before undertaking fundraising. Image: Supplied by Mr Rowan.

“I was told it could be fatal. But I was told unless I have a stroke it is unlikely the hospital will operate.”

Scott has been conducting research into his condition as he said he was unwilling to take “no” for an answer.

He has found a leading cardiologist, based in Bristol, who could operate privately, but it comes with a hefty price tag of £20,000.

He said: “I obviously don’t have that kind of money sitting about, so I would need help to get the procedure done.

“We all pay our taxes and National Insurance and this operation could potentially save the NHS more money than it would cost to put me through the operation after a stroke.

“I am just wanting to see my kids grow old. I don’t think that is too much to ask of the NHS, I have worked all my life and paid into the system.

Constant fear for Scott

“It could go at any time, and that is a real worry. I know that no one knows when they will have an emergency – but I do know there is a problem, and I  know there is a treatment, and yet the NHS said they will not treat me for it.

“It is just unfair.”

Scott says that he could get back to diving if he had the operation. “If I had the operation it would take away the constant fear that at any moment I could have a funny turn – or worse a stroke,” he said.

He works for Jifmar, formerly North West Marine, in Oban who have accommodated him with a non-diving job.

Scott wants to get back into the sea.

But until he gets a clean bill of health with medics, he will not be able to do the job he loves.

Scott Rowan with his children Amber and Effie in Oban.
Scott Rowan with Amber and Effie. Image: Supplied by Mr Rowan.

As Scott lives in Oban, an agreement between NHS Highland and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, means his care is routed to Glasgow.

A consultant at the Golden Jubilee Hospital in the city saw him and told him he would not be able to have the operation.

He continued: “Initially I thought I would start to run 10k every day to raise money for the operation.

“But I am going to wait until after July 16 to make sure I am 100% fit. I see the consultant from Bristol on that date, and I will be clearer about what I can do.”

Medics told him operations were granted on a case-by-case basis.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “We are very sorry to hear about Mr Rowan’s situation but are unable to comment more specifically on individual cases.

“Clinical decisions on what operations are performed are a matter for the clinical team involved, in discussion with the patient and in line with clinical guidelines.”

A spokesperson for NHS Golden Jubilee said: “Due to patient confidentiality, we do not divulge information on individuals.

“PFO is present in about a quarter of young adults. Clinical evidence shows that most PFOs do not need to be closed. As with any heart procedure, there can be risks associated with PFO closure.

“Therefore, the indication and potential for benefit must be carefully considered. Individuals are reviewed on a case-by-case basis and treatment, including operations, are carried out where it is clinically appropriate to do so.

“PFO procedures are fully funded by NHS Scotland Health Boards where appropriate.”

NHS Highland said it was a matter for NHS Golden Jubilee, and declined to comment further.