What Would Be Your Miracle? Second episode features Southmead

Thursday, 5 May 2016

In this brand new series Emma Willis follows the inspirational and emotional stories of people whose lives are transformed by the power of modern medicine, people who are all hoping for miracles.

In each episode, Emma meets two people having incredible operations in the hope of changing their lives and those of their families forever. Over two years, Emma charts the progress of these ordinary families going through extraordinary times. 

In the second episode of the series, which airs tonight (Thursday, May 5) at 9pm on ITV1, Emma meets Southmead Hospital patient Mac MacGregor, a 68-year-old retired Marine who lives with his wife Chez in Devon, and who for the past three years has been trapped in a body which shakes uncontrollably.

Southmead Hospital's Bristol Brain Centre features on second episode of ITV programme What Would Be Your Miracle with Emma Willis

Joining the Marines aged 17 in search of adventure, Mac served in the Falklands and on three tours of Northern Ireland. He specialized in surviving in Arctic conditions and, off-duty, was an active sportsman, doing everything from diving to paragliding.

After 23 years of regimental life, Mac was looking for his next adventure, as he says: “It was a case of coming out of the Marines and doing something exciting.”

Travelling around Europe in a campervan with no great plan, life was good with few cares in the world. But Mac and Chez’s carefree existence came to a sudden end, as Chez says: “We were in Portugal and this one morning, I got up and Mac’s sat in bed with his cup of coffee and he just went quiet…He was biting his tongue and choking…I didn’t know what was happening.”

Mac had suffered a fit and within weeks, Mac noticed that his left hand had started to shake. His tremor gradually spread throughout his body and became increasingly violent. Today Mac shakes constantly from head to toe and is living with a body he can’t control.

Mac says: “I don’t recognize myself now. It’s a complete change from being what I was to what I am now.”

Doctors have tried every possible treatment they have to stop Mac’s body from shaking, but up until now all have failed.

Mac’s daughter Kirsty says: “It’s sad, he’s probably at the point where he’s just, ‘If you don’t do anything to help me in the next six months, then I don’t want to be here.’ He wouldn’t want to be a burden on mum, he wouldn’t want to be a burden on me.”

Sitting in his living room, Emma asks Mac what’s the one thing he’d do if he didn’t have his tremor. Mac says he’d like to glide like the birds: “As I sit here, some afternoons you can watch the seagulls come across, and then they come to the hill and they get lift. The birds make it look so easy, and it’s something I’d seen them doing and I thought I wouldn’t mind having a go at that.”

Mac’s is about to have complex brain surgery called Deep Brain Stimulation.  The operation is incredibly invasive and involves making a 3D map of Mac’s brain which a surgical robot uses as a guide to drill with pinpoint accuracy deep into his head, a technique pioneered by Professor Gill at Southmead Hospital. Professor Gill and his surgical team then insert electrodes into Mac’s brain with millimeter precision and connect them to a device called an Implanted Pulse Generator, which has been embedded in his chest.  It is hoped, when this special technology, is switched on, it will give Mac back control of his body.

A month after his procedure and Mac is back at the hospital to see if it has worked.

Before activating the device, specialist nurse Caroline asks Mac to reach over to the table and try to pick up a plastic cup and put it to his mouth. His hand shakes uncontrollably and the plastic cup is almost crushed in the process. 

Caroline then switches on the device, and after a few moments, Mac says: “Ah, ah…that’s it…that feels good.”

Mac then reaches over to the cup, lifts it to his mouth and takes a drink.  This success leaves Mac in tears.

Eight months later, Emma meet up with Mac to finds out if the operation has changed his life, and as he prepares to take to the skies on an adventure he’ll never forget, it looks like it may have done just that.