Geoff Williams, at almost 70 yrs old is still working as a consultant Chartered Loss Adjuster. He still enjoys regular fell walking and cycling.
In June 2018, I had an open surgery abdominal aortic aneurysm repair.
If you have the same condition, you may be one of those people who worry about everthing but worry is a negative emotion, it achieves nothing, so therefore its pointless and the only way to deal with difficulties in life is to do something about what you can control and don’t worry about what you can’t control
When you get close to the operation you will make several visits to the Elective Treatment Centre.
The first time you go is so that your fitness or unfitness level can be assessed. When I was talking to the anaesthetist who did that I asked him why it was called the Elective Treatment Centre when you really don’t have a choice. He said you always have the choice to have an operation or not but its no choice really because who wouldn’t want to see their grandchildren grow up as much as they could.
But you do have choices along the way.
When I had my first scan and my aneurysm was discovered, I was shown the image of it on the little screen that they have and I did not like to see that because I am a bit squeamish so on subsequent scans I told them that I didn’t want to look and I never saw it again. I made the choice not to look at something which I didn’t want to look at. You don’t have to look at it.
The first time I ever met my surgeon, Mr Murray, we had a chat about everything and I remember Mr Murray asking me whether I was clear about what was going to happen in my operation and whether I needed any more details about the procedure. Even by then we had built up a bit of a rapport and I felt that he had a good idea of my sense of humour, so I replied to the effect that any more detailed knowledge of what he was going to do with me was superfluous to me as I would be asleep and it was he who needed to know such details.
I explained that I regarded that having an operation was the same as going on a plane. You don’t need to know how to fly a plane as long as the pilot does and if anything goes wrong there’s nothing you can do about it. I told him that I knew that my life was completely in the hands of himself and his team and that I trusted him to do what he could for me. We had a clear understanding between ourselves at that point which continued throughout our dealings.
I have been told that the most frequently asked question of the medical staff is what you can and can’t do with your aneurysm.
The first time I saw the aneurysm nurse just after my first scan I showed her a photograph taken the previous weekend from on top of a high fell overlooking Ullswater in the Lake District. I asked her whether I should be doing fell walking and she said that the more I did to keep fit the better it would be and that the only thing not to do was lift heavy objects which later got me out of helping one of my sons move house.
Between having my aneurysm found about 5 years ago and my operation a year ago give or take a few days, I went up a lot of other fells, I cycled a lot, I drove an Aston Martin around the Formula 1 track at Silverstone, I went to many football matches, I went on loads of holidays mainly to my apartment in Spain where I had plenty beers and gin and tonics at my favourite bars but I also went on holidays with my family. In August 2017, less than a year before I needed my operation, I took my entire family to Orlando in Florida and went to all the theme parks. I carried on working and at the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018 upto the end of March, just before my operation, I worked in the Caribbean dealing with insurance claims following hurricane damage in the US Virgin Islands. For the first five weeks we had no electricity or hot water but I survived. I even went canoeing in the sea and I’m a non-swimmer.
So don’t sit at home pointlessly worrying about things, relax, have a drink if that’s your way, and just do it – get on with your life because when the time comes for your operation the scanning people will let you know and you will see your surgeon within two weeks and then have your operation within eight weeks after that.
My last scan was on 20 April 2018and my first operation date was 21 May 2018. The weekend before I got a cold and when I consulted Mr Murray, we agreed that we would postpone it until I felt better. My operation was on 6 June 2018
When you eventually get to having your operation its obvious that there is an entire team of professionals to do their best to make sure that everything goes OK. The main man is of course your surgeon. There was a slight complication with mine which is unusual and it took longer than anticipated with the result that I lost more blood than expected but I owe my life largely to the expertise of Mr Murray in putting me back together.
After the operation you will go to the High Dependecy unit. You get half a nurse to yourself as each one looks after two patients. The care is second to none. I can’t praise them enough. Then when you recover a bit you go onto the ward after a couple of days in HDU by which time you will be getting a bit fed up and wanting to go home..
My operation was on a Thursday and I was transferred from the High Dependency Unit to the Vascular Ward on Saturday evening. By then the epidural which had contained my pain, which by the way I never had because of the excellent treatment I had received, had been removed and I was on strong painkillers which were fine at first but on the Sunday morning I felt worse after I had had them but I persisted. That night I had a bit of an hallucination that I was being held prisoner by for some reason Russians, for their experimental purposes and I worked out that it was the painkillers so when the nurse came round on the Monday morning with my meds, I refused to take the painkillers as well as a laxative as by that time I had managed to walk to the toilet and didn’t need more.
When Mr Murray came to see me later that morning he immediately commented that I seemed considerably better than the previous day. He knew that I had refused the prescribed meds and we discussed all that. I believe that at that time he saw that I was almost off the plane and a long way towards taking back control of my life. I believe that in a strange way he had come to trust my judgment to a great extent and he asked me whether I wanted to go home the following day after he had arranged for me to take a test with the physio which entailed climbing stairs to prove that I could.
A few minutes after we had finished speaking, a physio turned up. I said “that was quick” but she didn’t know what I was talking about as she was just doing a routine check to see how I was. I told her about the stairs test and she immediately went and got a colleague to help her in case I fell and a wheelchair to take me to the stairs. When we got there I got out of the wheelchair and walked straight up the first flight, turning and asking how much farther I had to go and the two girls were still at the bottom of the stairs staring open mouthed at my rapid progress up them.
Half way back to the ward, they stopped and asked me if I wanted to walk the rest of the way to stretch my legs which I did.
When I got back I caught Mr Murray’s eye as he was still doing his ward rounds and told him what had happened at which he said “well in that case do you want to go home today?” and I did go home that afternoon - Monday afternoon after major surgery on the previous Thursday afternoon.
I can’t praise these people enough. When I had my operation, I had three grandchildren. I have another now who I my never have met if it hadn’t been for Mr Murray and his team.
- Worrying is pointless
- Do something about what you can do
- Get on with your life
- Be a member of your team when you get to hospital