Alan Bennett reveals he underwent open heart surgery

By Alex Green, PA Entertainment Reporter

Alan Bennett has revealed that he underwent open heart surgery last year.

The author, playwright and broadcaster broke the news in a diary column, called What I Did In 2019, published in the London Review Of Books on Thursday.

The 85-year-old, originally from Armley in Leeds, said the operation had come as a “complete surprise” and had “knocked (him) out for three months”.

Dame Maggie Smith with Alan Bennett (Ian West/PA)

The History Boys writer has previously been treated for colon cancer and for an aneurysm, a swollen blood vessel, in his abdomen.

After the March 30 entry, he wrote: “A big hole in this year’s diary when in April I was found to need an open heart operation: leaking aorta, aneurysm and blocked artery.

“With no symptoms to speak of, it came as a complete surprise and knocked me out for three months, with the diary unreadable (and illegible). Blame the anaesthetic.”

In the entry for August 20 Bennett continued: “Me: I’ve not been well. I’ve had a heart bypass.

“Them: Well, you’re a writer, that’s just what you need.”

In one of the earlier entries Bennett praised staff working at University College Hospital in London for their “model service”.

Bennett’s entry for January 8 read: “My six-monthly aorta scan at University College Hospital. Due at 12.30 I’m early, so that by 12.45 I’m back home.

“It’s a model service, today’s radiographer a bearded young man who asks about (Bennett’s 2018 play) Allelujah!, and shows me the screen and how he measures the width of my (quite small) aneurysms.

“Good young medics always cheer me and offer hope, not for my future but for the world in general.”

Allelujah!, which opened at the Bridge Theatre in London, was about an NHS hospital threatened with closure as part of an efficiency drive.

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