Routine scan saves Colin's life

Wednesday 10 September 2014

A scan of an aorta

A great-grandfather’s life was saved by a routine bowel scan when a surgeon spotted a balloon-sized bulge near his heart that was ready to burst.

Colin Rann, 70, from East Grinstead, says: “I was eating my breakfast when I got a call from Mr Tyrrell telling me to stop what I was doing and get straight to the hospital for surgery,” he says. “I’d had a scan because I’d had some bowel pain so it was a complete shock to hear they’d spotted something else. I was thinking the worst. I was considered a dead man walking, and I’d had no symptoms. I could have died any minute.”

Mr Mark Tyrrell, a vascular surgeon at St Thomas’ Hospital, saw the scan at Colin’s local hospital near Tunbridge Wells, where he sees local people with vascular problems once a week. It was passed to him by a colleague who was looking for problems with Colin’s bowels.

Mr Tyrrell says: “Colin had a very large abdominal aneurysm – a balloon-like bulge in the main artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. This aneurysm was unusual because it involved the main blood supply to Colin's gut and kidneys. It was very large and could have burst without warning, which would most likely have killed him.”

The operation at St Thomas’ took half a day. Ten weeks later, former chauffeur company owner Colin is recovering well. He is forever grateful to Mr Tyrrell.

“He saved my life, he’s an absolute genius, I can’t speak highly enough of him. I’ve got a 14-inch scar, which I tell the ladies is a shark bite. But the scar doesn’t compare to what could have been if Mr Tyrrell hadn’t spotted the problem.

“The care from the whole team at St Thomas’ was second to none.”

One of the possible causes of Colin’s aneurysm is smoking. “I haven’t touched a cigar since the surgery and I don’t intend to,” he adds.

Mr Tyrrell says: “We replaced the damaged area of Colin’s blood vessel with a synthetic tube. If an aneurysm bursts it causes catastrophic internal bleeding and blood from the heart can no longer pump around the body.”

Mr Tyrrell is one of 10 specialist surgeons at the vascular unit at St Thomas’. He provides an ‘outreach service’ at Pembury Hospital near Tunbridge Wells, while other Guy’s and St Thomas’ surgeons support patients in Lewisham and Dartford. It means people who live in the local area can have tests and minor procedures close to their home carried out by experts in the field. If they need complex surgery they go to St Thomas’.

Men over the age of 65 are most at risk of having an aneurysm. Other risk factors include having an unhealthy diet, high cholesterol, diabetes and not exercising regularly.

When Colin is fully recovered he is looking forward to spending time with his 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

The vascular team at St Thomas’ includes managers, nurses, and doctors – surgeons, radiologists, anaesthetists. They also work with a team of therapists who support patients’ recovery.

Last updated: September 2014

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