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A North Finchley man tells how a leaflet from Royal Free hospital helped save his life
Royal Free hospital is encouraging men over the age of 65 to have a free scan to test whether they are at risk of having a fatal aneurism. Reporter Natalie O’Neill discovers how this 15-minute test has the ability to prevent thousands of people dying each year.
Advertisements, catalogues and flyers are stuffed through the doors of millions of homes every day. Thousands are put away in drawers never to be opened, with thousands more going straight in the bin without a second thought.
But one piece of paper posted through a letterbox in North Finchley changed the life of 64-year-old Andreas Thrasyvoulou – forever.
Six months ago Andreas received a leaflet from the Royal Free hospital advising men over the age of 65 to have a free Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) screening. As some people get older the aorta, the main blood vessel that supplies blood to the body, can weaken and give way. This is known as aneurysm rupture and is usually fatal.
Andreas calls himself a “manly-man” – he’s never ill, never sits still and most definitely never goes to the doctor’s.
“I need to be doing something – all the time,” he tells me twirling his thumbs around each other.
So it took some persuading from his wife Dorothea, 68, and their daughter Skevi Kyriacou, 42, before he eventually decided to get himself checked out.
With his family at his side, he visited the hospital and underwent a series of tests. But it was not good news - doctors discovered Andreas not only had AAA but cancer of the pancreas.
The happy-go-lucky grandfather-of-two suddenly felt like his world was falling apart. “We were sitting round a table at the hospital and I just kept swearing and then apologizing and swearing and then apologizing again.
“I was shocked and petrified at the same time. It was a horrible feeling. I just couldn’t believe something was wrong with me – I felt fit and healthy, it didn’t make any sense.”
Andreas grew up in a small village in Cyprus called Messa Chorio before moving to England with his family in 1974.
Coming from a big Greek Orthodox family, everyone immediately rallied round to help him get through this terrible time.
He had an operation to rectify the aneurism and has been receiving chemotherapy.
He has taken time off from working as a general manager at a restaurant in central London, and is doing the thing he hates doing the most – resting.
“Every village in Cyprus has a saint and mine is Saint Marina. Throughout everything I’ve been praying to her to help me. She has been watching over me and keeping me safe.
“I’m getting restless, I feel tired a lot and I’ve lost four-and-a-half stone. But I am lucky – I am still alive.
“I just thank God that leaflet came through my door - it saved my life. Now I want to advise everybody I can to go and get checked out. It saved my life and it could save theirs.”
Approximately 6,000 people, mostly men who are 65-years-old or over, die nationally every year from a ruptured aorta.
The Royal Free wants to see this number fall dramatically and has been commissioned by NHS North Central London to provide AAA screening for people living in Barnet, Enfield and Haringey.
To book an appointment contact the hospital on 0207 317 7711.