‘Having a heart attack helped to save my life’

Alec Jarman (80) at his Fareham home with his wife Marjorie (79)''''Picture: Malcolm Wells (132192-5873)
Alec Jarman (80) at his Fareham home with his wife Marjorie (79)''''Picture: Malcolm Wells (132192-5873)

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IT’S not often people can say this – a heart attack saved my life.

But Alec Jarman firmly believes a mild heart attack played a part in saving his life.

Although symptoms of a bad heart were showing, what wasn’t apparent was a blood vessel in his body was swollen and ready to burst, causing massive internal bleeding.

The 80-year-old said: ‘I had a mild heart attack in November 2006. For a few weeks I had this tightness in my throat – it felt like your arm does when you have your blood pressure checked.

‘It would last for about five seconds and then go away.

‘It would go on like that and so I went to the doctors, who said it was muscular, and so I wasn’t sent for an ECG.

‘Then one day the tightness came on and didn’t go away.

‘My wife called for an ambulance and paramedics arrived and I was taken to Queen Alexandra Hospital.’

In QA, Mr Jarman, of Hill Walk, Fareham, was fitted with a stent, which is a short wire-mesh tube that opens up an artery, allowing blood to flow freely again.

But it was during the 45-minute stent operation, that surgeons spotted a much-bigger problem developing in Mr Jarman’s body.

His abdominal aorta had swollen up like a balloon, and a vascular surgeon was called to assess the situation.

Due to Mr Jarman’s weak heart, it was decided to wait up to 15 weeks before they tackled the aneurysm.

‘They said it was 3.5inches in diameter, and one of the biggest aneurysms they had seen,’ added Mr Jarman, who also suffers from diabetes.

‘For those weeks I felt like a condemned man.

‘I was told AAA’s are known as silent killers because often people don’t know about them until they burst and it’s too late. I couldn’t believe it, and that a heart attack was the reason it was spotted.’

Mr Jarman finally had his vascular surgery in February 2007, by vascular and renal consultant surgeon Paul Gibbs. Mr Jarman said: ‘I broke down when I said goodbye to Mr Gibbs.

‘I thanked him for all he had done – he saved my life, without a doubt.

‘It’s amazing what he did, he’s given me my life and I can’t thank him enough.’

Mr Jarman is looking forward to celebrating his 60th wedding anniversary with wife Marjorie in two years time. It’s a milestone the pair weren’t sure they would see together.

Mrs Jarman, 79, said: ‘It was a worrying time, when it all happened, quite traumatic.

‘Mr Gibbs saved his life, and we are so grateful.

‘I’ve been married to Alec for 58 years, and we’ll be celebrating our diamond wedding anniversary in two years.

‘I appreciate all that was done to save him.’

Eight key questions and answers here on future of vascular surgery at QA Hospital in Portsmouth