I was busy in my day job and tried to ignore my persistent cough. In my fifties I had never really had any health problems other than the odd cold or 'flu. My Dad died in his early fifties but in those days we never knew what caused it other than 'something related to his heart'

My wife persuaded me to visit our GP after a weekend when I had been coughing a lot. He organised a chest X-ray. When the result came through two days later he sent me straight to our local accident and emergency department. After a CT scan, the doctors told me they were contacting the Royal Brompton & Harefield hospital as I needed to be in specialist aortic centre. I had an aneurysm (swelling) and it was not limited to the most common area. It had spread upwards toward the chest.

I was in hospital for about a week before a plan was made for an operation on the aorta which included my chest and belly. I was warned about the risks of the operation but knew that without it the danger was tearing of the aneurysm and sudden death.

I am now two months after surgery. It has been a long climb but I am feeling better and I didn't suffer any real complications. I know that conditions like mine are quite rare and cannot be treated in every NHS hospital. Specialist teams are needed. I will always be grateful to the Brompton & Harefield hospital for the care they gave me. And the chance to return to my normal life.