Shared experiences

Thank you from an early survivor

I had open heart surgery in 1960, on the early heart/lung bypass machine. The wonderful Sir Bryan Barrart-Boyes and the Greelane Team are responsible for my transformation from a once very ill little girl with a limited life expectancy into a now 63 year old woman who looks back on a full, exciting, varied life lived to the max. How could thank you ever be enough for this gift?

I was only able to lead a limited life (both quality of and life expectation) prior to my early open-heart surgery. I well remember the exhaustion, not being able to do the things the other kids could, and the relief of my coping mechanism of squatting in a quiet spot. My mother had already lost my baby sister and my father to heart disease. Sir Bryan Barrart-Boyes performed my open-heart surgery in 1960 at Greelane Hospital when I was just six years old, using the pioneering heart-lung bypass machine.

I have only a few memories of the events of the time I spent in hospital, away from my South Island family. Through my the six year old eyes I remember:

  • pre surgery being in a children’s ward that I only have good and fun memories of, under the care of nurses who were strict but nice
  • the visits by a kindly doctor
  • overhearing other children talking about scary surgery, then not seeing them anymore. I remember inventing an allergy to grapes after I discovered one girl’s surgery was postponed due to this.
  • more excitedly I remember lining up for the loved morning ritual of a tablespoon of yummy malt (suspicious, as were all the children in the line, of what tablets may be lurking within it),
  • waking up one day covered in bandages feeling a bit sore & sorry for myself, not being allowed to lie down, in a ward with older ladies who were telling each other how brave ‘the poor wee thing is’.
  • Endless tough physiotherapy sessions and trying to outwit the physiotherapist by presenting my ‘clam shell’ stitched side to her for physio (ouch!)

But then it all just continued to get better and better! Suddenly I could do just about all the things other kids could do, good and bad (my mother still proudly tells the story of the day I thumped my older brother back and his utter shock as I’d never been able to before). From not being well enough to even begin school, I could now ride a bike the mile and half to the school! I was never able to compete well in sports but I was at least able to give them a go now. Academically, I shot ahead.

Fast forward and by my late teens I had learnt to fly an aeroplane (I treasure the letter of congratulations from Greenlane) and even won flying competitions and featured briefly in a book; began nursing training; traveled. Then came marriage and children.  Four children! A piece of land in the country, building a house, the joy of raising my kids on a stream and bush filled wee farmlet, the pride of seeing my children graduate university; later my going back to study via correspondence, and taking on a very fulfilling literary career; travel, grandchildren, more travel and just recently an early retirement – I listened to my heart saying enough! rest now! I’ve had a few bumps along the way. Pacemaker before I was 40. I was the one breastfeeding my baby while I was in the cardiac care ward. But technology has evolved at about pace with my heart’s decline and each new pacemaker seems to be able to do whatever my heart throws at it. Drug regimes improve all the time. I constantly feel immense gratitude for the Sir Bryan and the Greenlane Team, and all the health care that has given me this chance at life that was denied to my father and sister.

– Lynn Jones (nee Howard)


Aortic surgery


My name was Marilyn Harkness and I was the first aortic replacement patient that Sir Brian operated on all those years ago. After many months in hospital on bedrest I suddenly had my life back!! What a miracle that was for me and for my family. I am now 69 and after one further surgery in the 80’s I am still well and am excited to be able to come in and share these wonderful achievements at Motat.

– Marilyn Hollingsworth

Heart Disease in New Zealand

We have come a long way in our management of heart disease from the peak of the epidemic in the late 1960s.It is important to all of us to stop and reflect with exhibtions such as Brave Hearts on the contribution of scientists and health professionals over the last 50 years or more in our fight to reduce premature mortality and morbidity from cardiovascular disease for all New Zealanders.

– Gerry Devlin, Medical Director, Heart Foundation

Get in touch

Dr Margaret Horsburgh
Mobile: 021 444 012
Address: AMMT, c/- P E HOLST,
PO Box 482, Orewa 0946

AMMT is a Registered Charitable Trust CC50444 under the New Zealand Charities Act 2005.