A Largs community hero has been hailed a 'miracle man' after recovering from pioneering surgery which helped save his life.

Kenny McCaig, 72, contracted a serious bout of Covid in November 2020 which required a two week stay in hospital.

Kenny spent 27 years as a local coastguard volunteer.

He is one of the first Scots to have received ground-breaking surgery which resulted in scarred arteries from Covid being removed while he was in a period of 'hibernation' which saw his heart being stopped and his brain and body cooled down to 20 degrees Celsius.

As well as giving the NHS a heartfelt thank you for his treatment, Kenny is now taking up a volunteer role with an Ayrshire cancer charity to give other patients in the area a helping hand.

The operation, a pulmonary endarterectomy (PEA), is a highly specialised form of treatment, only performed at the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, which is a world-leader in the innovative surgical technique. 

A year after contracting Covid, Kenny was due to fly to Barra on a 'bucket list' trip - a birthday present from wife Bernadette - but wasn't allowed to board the Loganair plane as he was suffering breathing difficulties.

He was wheeled back through Glasgow Airport in a wheelchair and taken to A&E, where it was discovered he had blood clots in his lungs as a result of 'long Covid'.

And on March 1 last year, Kenny received a letter from his GP to say that his latest blood test had shown his kidneys were endangered.

He was taken to A&E again and put on a drip and medication before being discharged.

But his breathing difficulties continued and he was re-admitted later that same month after his blood oxygen levels dropped significantly.

A chest infection developed into pneumonia, putting Kenny's life at serious risk.

He had oxygen forced into his body, to improve the blood flow and circulation, before being allowed home a month later.

Largs and Millport Weekly News: Pulmonary endarterectomy (PEA) is a highly specialised operation only performed at Royal Papworth Hospital, which is a world-leader in this innovative surgical technique. Pulmonary endarterectomy (PEA) is a highly specialised operation only performed at Royal Papworth Hospital, which is a world-leader in this innovative surgical technique. (Image: Royal Papworth)

But Kenny still wasn't out of the woods.

He was then diagnosed with 'essential thrombocythemia', which meant he had too many white platelets in his blood, and Jaks2 - a form of blood cancer which requires him to take a chemotherapy drug six days a week.

In May 2022 Kenny was admitted to the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank, where he had to undergo five days of tests.

That was when he was told about the possibility of surgery at the Royal Papworth Hospital to remove the scarring - and was warned that without the surgery he was at increased risk of a heart attack.

Kenny was advised to expect a wait of between four and six months for the treatment - and underwent surgery on June 9.

The chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension was treated with a pulmonary endarterectomy, or PEA.

Kenny, who worked as a plant operator at Hunterston A and B for 40 years, said: "This op consisted of putting you on a ventilator, and a heart/lung bypass machine, and cooling your body temperature down to 20 degrees, and then they put you into a form of hibernation which reduces the body's need for oxygen.

"The surgeon, who calls himself 'The Plumber', cuts down a length of your chest to your breastbone get access through your sternum and opens each pulmonary, one lung at a time, to take out the inner lining of the artery which has the scarring on it.

Largs and Millport Weekly News:
"After a certain time they have to take you off it to get your blood flowing again, and then go back to the procedure.

"Once the arteries have had the scarring removed, and the surgeon has closed down the arteries, the temperature is brought back up to 37 degrees, and they start your heart beating again, and you are eventually taken off the heart/lung bypass machine.

"The surgeon then puts in two or three tubes on the top of your stomach, and he also puts in thin metal wires called pacing wires and they are connected to a pacing box, and they can control your heart rate through these pacing wires. 

"The surgeon then closed my chest using sternum wires, to allow the sternum to knit, and these wires stay there for the rest of your life.  It is the same route as open heart surgery."

Kenny was discharged on June 16, and thanked the NHS for all their professionalism and support - as well as the ground-breaking surgery.

He said: "He said: "I am on a blood thinning drug to stop any more blood clots forming and will be for the rest of my life, and still require to take medication for the blood cancer.

"I would also like to mention a massive thanks to my wife Bernadette and daughter Lauren for looking after me before and after my surgery.

"I had found it hard having to now take it easy, having been in the coastguard for 27 years, as I have always been an active person, and was invited back to Papworth in September for tests.

"I have now sufficiently recovered enough that I will be taking up a volunteer role for North Ayrshire Cancer Care to drive people to and from hospital with cancer - as a special thank you. 

"It has been an incredible journey, I am looking for recognition for the NHS and this amazing surgery I have received which I will be eternally grateful for, and I hope will benefit many others in the time to come."