Former nurse William Daibell was used to dealing with health issues.
But even he was shocked when he was told after a routine test: “You could be dead within days”.
It was pure chance that the Deighton man spotted a poster for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm screening being offered to all men aged 65 and over in his local surgery, as he waited for a routine appointment.
But when he went along to get checked out, he was whipped into hospital by ambulance and underwent life-saving surgery on the aorta, the main blood vessel to his heart.
Doctors told him had he not been tested, he could have died at any time.
And as he says: “I could have been driving in my car, collapsed at the wheel and taken out another 20 people standing at a bus stop, knowing nothing about it.
“They call in the ‘silent killer’ in our bodies because there are no symptoms.
“It was pure luck I saw the poster and pure luck that they had a cancellation and I could be scanned very quickly”.
The aorta is the main blood vessel that supplies blood to the body. In some people, as they get older, the walls of the aorta become weak and start to expand. This can then rupture, also known as an aneurysm and because there are generally no symptoms this means you cannot tell if you have one.
Mr Daibell, 67, lives in Deighton Road, Deighton, with wife Anne, 69.
He was a butcher in his early years before deciding to retrain, firstly as a psychicatric nurse at Storthes Hall Hospital and then as a general nurse at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. He retired 12 years ago.
He said: “I was in the doctor’s surgery for a routine appointment and read the poster while I was in the waiting room.
“They were doing scans at Fartown Grange near my home and when I rang up there had been a cancellation so I went down there.
“As soon as the technician started the scan I could tell something was wrong. She made a call to the hospital and within minutes, the consultant surgeon was arranging for an ambulance transfer.
“I didn’t even get the chance to move my car, as I had driven to the surgery.
“After more tests, they at first wanted to operate through my groin but then saw it was far worse so they admitted me two days later opened me up. I was in theatre for 12 hours and then spent several days in intensive care and three weeks in hospital.
“The scan has saved my life. I feel like I have been given a second chance, so I have given up smoking too. I just think that if those people did so much to save me, the least I could do is look after myself.”
Kirsty Blackburn, technician for the AAA screening programme in West Yorkshire, said: “The ultrasound scan is quick, painless and saves lives. You only have to lift your shirt up, have some gel put on your abdomen, have an ultrasound scan all of which takes just 10 minutes, and you’ll receive your results straight away.”
She added: “After treating Mr Daibell, a ‘chain reaction’ began.
“His friends and family saw the life-changing effects the screening had on him and have since been to get tested too.”
Around 1 in 25 men aged between 65 and 74 in England have an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Small and medium aneurysms are usually monitored following diagnosis.
Large aneurysms, like Mr Daibell’s, are rare but can be very serious. As the aorta stretches, it becomes weaker and can give way which is often fatal.
All men are invited to attend a AAA screening appointment in the year they turn 65.
To find out more about the programme, contact the West Yorkshire AAA Screening Programme at 01422 224204 or your GP.
Screening in the West Yorkshire Central Area is provided by Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust.