Offer of free scan saved my life says grandfather Tony
17 February 2014
After a letter landed on his doormat inviting him to attend the Southend University Hospital-led Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) Screening Programme, 65-year old Tony Richards gladly took up the offer not realising just how important that decision was.
Having attended his appointment at a clinic held near to his
home in Corringham, where he lives with his wife Sheila, and a few
minutes later he had been given the momentous news.
"I was told I was the first person to be diagnosed with an
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm(AAA)as part of the NHS' voluntary
screening programme. Two technicians used an ultrasound machine to
scan me. I thought I was quite healthy but they said that I had a
sizeable aneurysm. Four days later I saw Mr Salter at Southend
Hospital and he explained how life-threatening it can be."
With Mr Richards' well-being an absolute priority, he was
quickly admitted to Southend Hospital, where he was told his
aneurysm was suitable for two types of repair - traditional open
surgery and the less invasive endovascular stenting technique. "My
consultant, Mr Matthew Jakeways, explained everything very clearly
and I agreed to have the keyhole procedure. I was in on Sunday,
operated on Monday and out on Friday,"the self-employed decorator
said, adding:"It was deemed a complete success. I had an excellent
experience hospital. I didn't even mind the food! Everyone was very
dedicated and extremely professional. It was all really good."
AAAs are most common in men aged 65 and over. They are caused
when the aorta (the main artery in the abdomen) becomes weak and
starts to expand. Around 6,000 people, mostly men aged 65 and over,
die in England and Wales every year after large aneurysms rupture
(burst). The NHS AAA Screening Programme aims to reduce deaths from
ruptured aneurysms by up to 50% through early detection, effective
monitoring and treatment. The screening test itself is a quick and
simple ultrasound scan of the stomach, similar to that offered to
women during pregnancy. Most men have a normal result and do not
need to be seen again.
This screening service is part of a UK wide programme for men
launched last year - Southend University Hospital provides the
service for the whole of Essex after winning the bid to host
Aware of his good fortune and the potential seriousness of the
condition, Tony advises men over 65 to take up this offer of free
screening at the earliest opportunity: "40 people in over 1,000
will have this problem and it needs treating. You can go through
life with an AAA until it ruptures - and then you're dead. If they
can find it early and prevent it, that's a very good thing."
Dr Matthew Tam, consultant interventional radiologist who
oversees the scanning for the screening programme, and who inserted
Mr Richards' stents said:"Men who have an abdominal aortic aneurysm
generally don't experience any symptomsor change in their general
health. But this is what makes screening so important.
"The test is simple, non-invasive and quick - usually taking
less than 10 minutes. Early detection of AAA through screening
enables us to offer monitoring or treatment, reducing potentially
fatal outcomes, as we have demonstrated with Mr Richards. I hope he
will be decorating for many years to come."