Published Wednesday 12 February 2014 at 15:08
Free health checks are available in Blackburn with Darwen to people aged between 35 and 74 who have a GP in the borough and have not already been diagnosed with a heart disease, kidney disease or diabetes.
They can help pick up on any risks associated with conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and kidney disease, which can sometimes be prevented by improvements or alterations to lifestyles.
For one Blackburn with Darwen resident, having a free health check became a matter of life and death.
Mohammed Saeed, 49, from Beresford Road Blackburn was an active man who went to the gym three times a week and played football twice a week. The former Science and Maths teacher was a regular at Bangor Street Community Centre, where he decided to take up the offer of a free health check.
“The nurse did some blood tests and took my blood pressure and immediately noticed it was dangerously high,” he said. “She thought that meant must be an underlying problem somewhere. I went to my doctor who sent me for more blood tests and they found that my thyroid levels were low so he started me on thyroid tablets.”
Two months after the initial health check, Mohammed felt an excruciating pain in his lower back and his right leg became completely paralysed. He was taken to Preston hospital and given an MRI. That yielded no results of note and so Mohammed was sent home after five days and began physiotherapy.
“There was no particular improvement”, he said. “I could walk with crutches or a walking stick but the chronic pain in my back was still there. I got sick of it and wanted to start playing football again but physically I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t even walk to get from one place to another, it took me ages and I’d get breathless.”
Mohammed went back to his doctor and further tests followed. “I couldn’t walk distances and I couldn’t sleep because when I lay down I couldn’t breathe,” Mohammed continued. “Eventually I collapsed at work and ended up in hospital on a TB ward. I spent two weeks in there before being transferred to the cardiology department due to a huge murmur on my heart. I was told my heart had enlarged by 30% because it had been overcompensating. They said I had heart failure.
“I was sent to the heart specialist centre in Blackpool and the doctor explained that arteries have three layers and mine had split into a corkscrew which explained what happened with my legs as the blood flow had stopped. I was told to prepare for the worst. There was a team of 23 who worked on my surgery and I was like a celebrity at the hospital with doctors coming to see me from all over the place.”
Mohammed’s operation lasted 17 hours, during which time his body was drained of blood. His heart was stopped and restarted via a technique that involved putting his hands in metal bowls and then shocking his heart to start again.
He added: “They cut a section of my aortic root off and replaced it with a synthetic piece. And because my heart has expanded my aortic valve wasn’t closing so they put a metal valve in.”
The operation was a success but Mohammed’s illness – diagnosed as Marfan Syndrome – took a heavy toll on him and he’s no longer able to work. He is in no doubt though as to how important the health check was for saving his life. He said: “The surgeon said if I didn’t have that blood pressure test I’d be dead now. But I’m still here and that’s the main thing. The health check set off a chain of events which ended up in me having the operation which saved my life. Not everybody who has a health check will have a story as dramatic as mine but you just never know. If you’re eligible I’d urge you to have one as it might just pick up something up.”
Free health checks are being held around the borough during the remainder of February. If you’re eligible, have one at:
- Darwen Library: Friday 14th Feb (10am-4pm)
- Darwen Leisure Centre: Thursday 20th Feb (2pm-7.40pm)
- DW Sports & Fitness Club Audley: Monday 24th Feb (8am-2.40pm)
- DW Sports & Fitness Club Guide: Wednesday 26th Feb (9.30am-3.50pm)
- Blackburn Central Library: Friday 28th Feb (10am-4.00pm.)