'I'm able to walk again' 

Mr Joseph Leverment, from Cropston, Leicester, had a carotid endarterectomy while he was a senior surgeon at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust. He was operated on by colleagues at Leicester Royal Infirmary after having a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) at work.

"I was doing my outpatient clinic at Glenfield Hospital near Leicester when suddenly I felt nauseous and dizzy. I didn't think much of it to begin with and took a break to have a cup of tea. When that didn't help, I thought I might have low blood sugar as I hadn't eaten much that morning. I went to the hospital fast food restaurant to get something to eat. It was only at the counter that I realised I couldn't speak.

"Being a medical professional, I had an idea something might be wrong, but in confusion I thought I should just go home and rest. Once home, I went to bed and although it was the middle of the day, I slept for hours. When I woke up, my wife noticed at once that I was very confused as I was unable to string a proper sentence together.

"By then I had realised that I needed urgent medical help. As I couldn't speak properly, I managed to write down the name of one of my colleagues, a fellow surgeon, on a piece of paper. Although I had worked with him for years and he was a good friend, all I could remember was his first name, Graham. My wife understood immediately who she should contact. She drove me to the hospital where Graham was. On getting out of my bed, I realised I couldn't feel my right arm or leg. I became increasingly worried.

"At the hospital, I had an MRI scan and other tests, which showed I had almost a total blockage on the left carotid artery. I was then transferred to Leicester Royal Infirmary where I had a carotid endarterectomy the following morning. I knew I had no option but to have the surgery. It was urgent as I was having what is called 'crescendo' TIAs, where I was likely to have a major stroke at any time. I had full confidence in the surgeon who did the operation as I'd known him professionally for years.

"When I woke up I was so grateful to see my wife and daughter's faces again – I realised there was a small risk I would have a stroke and perhaps not survive the operation. I felt reasonably well afterwards, but still had numbness down my right side. My arm and leg were badly affected. My speech was also not back to normal. But after spending the night in intensive care, I was well enough to go home again the following morning.

"For several weeks after the operation I had naps in the afternoon as I got tired very easily, mentally and physically. Now, five months on, I am much improved. I can speak again. For a time, even though able to talk, I was getting words mixed up and not making a lot of sense. This was caused by damage to part of my brain during the TIAs.

"I have also gradually regained my strength. I began by doing small things around the house, like potting plants and doing a few odd jobs. Since then I have progressed to full-on gardening. I'm currently building a barbecue, which we will use in the summer. I can also walk again, and I've regained use of my hand.

"I've also made a lot of lifestyle changes. I've been a smoker since I was 18 and only stopped after my surgery. My colleagues used to call me 'Smokey Joe'. It was hard to give up smoking even then, but I succeeded with the help of nicotine replacement therapy. I had patches, an inhaler and nicotine gum!

"I've changed my diet too. With such a busy life, I often ate fast food on the go. I also used to eat a lot of red meat. Now we eat a lot more vegetables. Instead of a fry-up in the morning, we have porridge. That wasn't an easy change as I was very fond of red meat and fatty foods. But I know how important it is for the health of my arteries.

"I'm taking several different types of medication to keep my cholesterol under control. Unfortunately, high cholesterol runs in my family. I'm also on blood pressure medication and still struggle at times to keep that normal. Thankfully I have a wonderful GP who is very helpful. Another tablet I take every day is aspirin to help stop blood clots.

"The tests showed that my other carotid artery has only a 30% blockage, so I thankfully won't need to have surgery on that one.

"As I was already over retirement age, I won't be going back to work again. I consider myself to be very lucky. Because of my medical background, I had a good idea of what was happening to me on that day in November. I also knew exactly who to contact. I know others aren't so fortunate. Not everyone knows the symptoms of a stroke or a TIA."

Page last reviewed: 20/08/2015

Next review due: 20/08/2017