Chicago dog flown 8,000 miles for life-saving surgery in Cambridgeshire

Hula the Cockerpoo is back home in Chicago after successful heart surgery at Dick White Referrals in Cambridgeshire.

Hula the Cockerpoo (pictured) is back home in Chicago after successful heart surgery at Dick White Referrals in Cambridgeshire. - Credit: Linnaeus

A precious pet pooch from America completed an 8,000-mile round trip for a life-saving heart operation in Cambridgeshire.

The 12-year-old Cockapoo from Chicago, Illinois, was flown to Dick White Referrals (DWR) at Station Farm in Six Mile Bottom near Cambridge.  

Owned by Dr Jeffrey Bernfield, a specialist in diagnostic radiology, the beloved pet, Hula, was suffering from a severe case of myxomatous mitral valve disease. 

Hula would have died without help in Cambridgeshire.

Hula would have died without help in Cambridgeshire. - Credit: Linnaeus

It meant Hula had a seriously enlarged heart and would have died without Linnaeus-owned DWR's specialist care. 

Explaining his transatlantic mercy dash, Dr Bernfield said: “I did a lot of research on where this kind of advanced surgery could be performed and the UK and Japan were the only two viable places. 

“I decided the UK was a better option for Hula and me as it is a seven-hour flight rather than a 13-hour flight and obviously the people speak English, making communication easier. 

“DWR’s Dr Poppy Bristow also has an excellent reputation as a skilled surgeon, doctor and person which sealed the decision.” 

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Dr Bernfield’s research had highlighted DWR as one of the very few veterinary clinics around the world capable of performing the surgery to treat such advanced cases. 

DWR’s head of cardiac surgery Poppy Bristow, an industry-leading specialist in the field, combined with head of cardiology, Anne Kurosawa and consultant in cardiology, Hayley McDonald, to treat Hula. 

Poppy said: “Mitral valve disease is a progressively degenerative condition that affects a lot of middle-aged and older dogs and Hula was a very serious case. 

Hula had a seriously enlarged heart.

Hula had a seriously enlarged heart. - Credit: Linnaeus

“She had Stage C myxomatous (degenerative) mitral valve disease so needed urgent and expert attention. 

“The first challenge was to stop her heart while we repaired her failing mitral valve. 

“To do this safely we put her under cardiopulmonary bypass, where a machine temporarily takes over the function of the heart and lungs during surgery. 

Hula on the flight to the UK.

Hula on the flight to the UK. - Credit: Linnaeus

“Only a handful of centres in the world are able to perform this type of surgery, and at DWR we are currently performing it two to three times a month although we’re looking to increase this in the coming year. 

“Surgery went very well with four different specialities involved in ensuring such a successful outcome - soft tissue surgery, cardiology, anaesthesia and emergency and critical care, plus our excellent nursing team. 

“Happily, Hula is back home in Chicago now and doing very well.  

Dr Bernfield has thanked the DWR team.

Dr Bernfield has thanked the DWR team. - Credit: Linnaeus

“She has experienced hardly any residual leakage through her mitral valve and her heart is almost back to a normal size, having been extremely large prior to surgery.” 

Dr Bernfield is full of gratitude to Poppy and the DWR team, he added: “DWR was amazing! They have an exceptional heart team. 

“They are so skilled in what they do but, more than that, they are caring, kind and attentive in a manner that I have not seen before. 

Hula catching up one some well-deserved rest.

Hula catching up one some well-deserved rest. - Credit: Linnaeus

“I am a physician myself, and I can honestly say that these people are well situated to dealing with fixing hearts because they also have the kindest hearts that I have ever known. 

“Hula is doing great since surgery. She is no longer short of breath and her activity level is like it was five years ago. She is a different dog - and in a great way. 

“That’s why I would give DWR my highest possible recommendation. They saved Hula's life and I am forever indebted to them.”