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Flu jab nurse saved great grandfather’s life

PUBLISHED: 09:00 14 October 2011

Christopher Gilbert who owes his life to NHS nurse Jo Stenner who noticed he had a life threatening heart condition when he went in for a routine flu injection.

Picture: James Bass

Christopher Gilbert who owes his life to NHS nurse Jo Stenner who noticed he had a life threatening heart condition when he went in for a routine flu injection. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2011

A SHARP-eyed nurse saved a great grandfather’s life by detecting a serious heart condition when he was getting his annual flu jab.

Chris Gilbert, 77 of Great Yarmouth, had no symptoms of illness but was at high risk of having a heart attack or stroke due to high levels of calcium deposits in his arteries.

The deposits meant his arteries, which carry blood around the body, could have clogged at any time and killed him.

Practice nurse Jo Stenner checked the retired hotelier’s pulse when he attended Greyfriars Health Centre for his routine flu jab.

She was concerned by his irregular heartbeat and recommended he return for an electrocardiogram (ECG) heart reading, where he was wired up to monitors, later that day.

The reading showed Mr Gilbert had atrial fibrillation, or a fluttering heart, and he was referred to the James Paget Hospital for a follow-up appointment the same afternoon.

Mr Gilbert wanted to take a bus but the nurse insisted he get a taxi with his son, such was the risk to his health.

He is now on a course of beta blocker pills and aspirin which slows his pulse, thins his blood and takes the strain off his heart.

And Mr Gilbert thinks he may not be here today if nurse Jo Stenner had not spotted his heart condition and got him help.

He said: “There’s no joking about it. I would be gone if it wasn’t for this. I really am thankful and pleased and I can’t express my praise highly enough.

This wasn’t just somebody doing their job. This was somebody who was genuinely caring, looking after their patient and wanted to know what was going on afterwards.”

Mr Gilbert went to get his flu jab on Thursday, October 6 and by the following afternoon he had his prescription.

He says he had not considered there to be anything wrong before and put how he felt down to his weight.

But he is already feeling healthier and is booked in for more blood tests to ensure he gets the right medicine to return to good health.

And nurse Jo Stenner says it is fortunate Mr Gilbert went to the surgery for his flu jab or his heart condition might have gone unnoticed and proved fatal.

“The fact he had no symptoms is the main thing,” said Ms Stenner. “He didn’t have any chest pain and wasn’t unduly unwell.

“He didn’t know there was anything wrong with him so it wouldn’t have been picked up.”

It is NHS policy that everybody 
aged over 65 has their pulse checked when they go for a flu jab.

This is designed to pick up on health problems in pensioners who rarely need to visit the doctors, and in Mr Gilbert’s case it proved to be life saving.

“Without the pills Mr Gilbert is at a high risk of heart attack and may not survive,” said Ms Stenner. “He had quite a fluttery ECG so his condition must be quite advanced.

“I have to be quite calm but I was thinking ‘this isn’t right’.”

Mr Gilbert’s wife Jean, 79, is grateful to Ms Stenner for helping to keep her husband alive.

“I can’t praise her enough,” said Mrs Gilbert. “She’s saved his life. His blood could have clotted and that would be it.

“This is a blessing and we want to say thank you as we can’t praise the nurses and doctors enough.”

Most people who have atrial fibrillation or are at risk of the condition are already being treated.

If you are concerned that you may have the condition and are not being seen, visit your GP.

Greyfriars Health Centre is to move to its new site at the old community hall on October 25.

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