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Patient whose life was saved urges men to avoid ‘silent killer’

Published 06/01/2016

Royal Derby Hospital patient John Sommerville’s life was saved in dramatic fashion after his aneurysm burst, leaving him in need of urgent life-saving surgery – and now he is urging other men to have a simple ‘AAA’ screening test which could save their lives. 

An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is caused when the main blood vessel weakens and expands. Large aneurysms – known as ‘silent killers’ - can rupture inside the body without warning, as happened in John’s case, creating a medical emergency that is usually fatal.

John felt stabbing back pain after landing at East Midlands airport late one night last August; he collapsed as his aneurism burst and was rushed by  ambulance to the Royal Derby where his life was saved in an emergency operation which took place at 3.30 in the morning. 

“I am so, so lucky to have survived and it’s thanks to the surgeon Mr McMahon and the team at the Royal Derby that I’m here today to tell my story” says 68 year old Mr Sommerville. 

Vascular consultant surgeon Greg McMahon was on call on the night John was brought into A&E: “Three quarters of patients whose aneurisms burst don’t survive so John is especially fortunate. We performed an emergency operation to insert a stent into John’s aorta which saved his life.” 

AAA is most common in men aged 65 and over. Men are automatically invited for screening in the year they turn 65 and consultant Mr McMahon says men should take up this offer: “Nationally the AAA screening programme has screened its millionth patient. It’s a simple, pain free 10 minute ultrasound scan which can, and does, save lives”. 

This screening test reduces the rate of premature death from ruptured AAA by up to 50%. Around 3,000 men aged 65 and over die each year in England and Wales from ruptured AAA. 

In Derbyshire, 30 screening clinics around the county offer the test, and since 2012, 23,000 men have been screened with over 50 lives saved. 

Men born prior to 1st April 1947 can also self-refer direct to the screening programme.

  • To book an ultrasound scan at a community clinic please ring 01332 783485



Last Modified 16/02/2016