However, Alan started to suffer backache in March 2003 and I phoned an ambulance as I knew this to be an important symptom of an impending rupture and was not to be overlooked. He was admitted to Leicester Royal Infirmary and had a further scan (the results of which have never been disclosed to us).

He was seen by three consultants from the same department, each of them giving a different opinion. Professor Bell was away from the hospital at that time, but one of the consultants, Rob Sayers from Leicester's Glenfield Hospital, used his charming bedside manner to say to Alan, ‘You do know this aneurysm is going to kill you, don’t you?’

The second consultant told Alan that he could operate the following Monday but that the chance of survival was only 10% and if he did survive then he would be permanently paralysed from the chest down as the blood supply would have to be cut off from his spinal column. He felt that an operation would be far too risky and it would be better to be on blood pressure medication to reduce his BP to 120:70. He said that there wasn’t much left inside Alan’s aorta to attach a stent to as it was thrombosed and that the aneurysm extended into his legs. He said that with reduced BP then the walls of the aneurysm may also thrombose and become stonger.

The third consultant, Professor Manuel Galinanes from Leicester's Glenfield Hospital, told Alan that he could operate and use a stent to repair the aorta and that the chances of success would be 50%. Thirty minutes later, just after I went downstairs to fetch coffee, he returned to say that an error had been made and it couldn’t be done. He said he would come back to explain all this to me, but he never returned and we left the hospital, quite frankly, devastated.

Discharge letter - inoperable prognosis signed by Sir Professor Peter Bell, Head of Department