A ripped fitness fanatic was horrified to discover the searing headache that floored him in the middle of a set of pull-ups was the result of three deadly brain aneurysms – poised to rupture at any second.
Life could not have been better for maintenance engineer Terry Careswell, 48, who had recently had a baby girl with his project manager girlfriend Jo Watson, 43, when he received the shocking health news in September 2019, after working out at home.
Piling on weight as he recovered from emergency surgery at the family home in Manchester – unable to follow his usual exercise regime – it was his daughter Jessica, now two-and-a-half, who kept him smiling, giving him hope and the incentive to get better.
Now 12st 2lb and fighting fit again, Terry said: “At first, I didn’t want Jessica to see me at hospital. I was worried it could affect her later on, seeing her dad in that state. But she was fine and it was lovely to have her with me.
“She was playing and laughing and it just gave me more strength to get through it.”
Originally from New Zealand, Terry – a keen gym goer – had the good sense to see a doctor about his headache, as it was such a foreign experience for him.
He said: “I can’t believe I had three brain aneurysms and I feel very lucky that they were caught in time.
“Thanks to the amazing medical team, I now get to spend time with my family and watch my daughter grow up.”
Before being diagnosed with brain aneurysms – bulges in a blood vessel which can leak or rupture, causing bleeding into the brain, known as a haemorrhagic stroke – Terry had not experienced any major health problems.
Breakfast - bacon, eggs and toast
Lunch - pork mince, vegetables, bread and a packet of crisps
Dinner - chicken satay with Chinese noodles
Snacks - Biscuits and beer
He said: “I’ve always been very active, and the headaches were really out of the ordinary, so I went to my GP who referred me for tests.”
Given an MRI, he was stunned when, the next day, a neurosurgeon knocked on his front door urging him to return to hospital.
He said: “I couldn’t believe it, but they told me to go back to Manchester Royal Infirmary for a CT scan.”
Following further scans, Terry was given the terrifying diagnosis and warned that emergency surgery could be needed.
“The doctors said I could die at any moment,” he said. “They were concerned about the size and abnormality of the aneurysms.”
Blue-lighted back to hospital, he was given a lumbar puncture, or spinal tap, in a bid to remove some fluid and pressure from his skull.
He said: “They discharged me for a few days before I was sent to Salford Royal Hospital for my surgery.”
While his family panicked about the seriousness of the operation, he remained astonishingly calm.
He said: “My brothers flew over from New Zealand to see me. It was weird, because I felt pretty good, I felt grounded about the situation.”
He added: “Everyone else around me was quite serious and worried about it all. At the same time, I didn’t want to cause any stress to myself because stress can have a pretty profound effect on the body.”
Luckily, the eight-hour procedure to clip the aneurysms and prevent ruptures in October 2019 was a success.
He said: “It was a high-risk operation but, because of how big the aneurysms were, doctors decided it was worth the risk.”
He added: “They operated on two of the aneurysms, the third was much smaller and in a tricky place so they decided to leave that one and monitor it instead.
“Jo came to the hospital with Jessica to see me before I went under.”
And the thought of his partner, who he met playing touch rugby in 2015 and Jessica, their only child, kept him going.
He said: “Thinking of them was a real incentive to get better.
His big frustration came when he could not exercise straight away.
But spending three nights in hospital after surgery, it was months before Terry was told he could start a keep fit routine again.
By June 2020, 5ft 9in Terry weighed 14st and was desperate to tone-up.
He said: “I could see in the mirror that I’d put on weight and that was a good enough reason to get back into exercise.
“I didn’t even need to look in the mirror, I felt overweight. It was eight months before I could exercise and by the time I did, I didn’t want to stop.”
He added: “I really wanted to focus on nutrition and learn a bit more about that side of fitness, too.
“I wanted to consider everything I was putting into my body. That was my big focus from then on.
“I wasn’t nervous at all about getting back into exercise after the aneurysms, I was really motivated.”
Breakfast - oats with blueberries and protein powder
Lunch - tuna, rice and beetroot
Dinner - pork mince with vegetables
Snacks - oats with mixed berries and a protein smoothie
He added: “I hadn’t really paid attention to nutrition before, I just ate what I wanted, but now, I’m very aware of everything I eat.”
Back down to a toned 12st 2lb, Terry feels his fitness regime has benefited him physically and mentally.
He said: “It’s given me something to focus on.”
He added: “Thankfully, the surgery went to plan and now, I have one head scan a year. So far, everything has come back clear.
“I was off work for about eight months, but life is starting to feel normal for me again now.”
Looking to the future, Terry will be eternally grateful to the NHS for saving his life.
He said: “I can’t thank the doctors and nurses who helped me enough.
“And, since getting back into exercise, I feel so much better within myself and within my own skin. I feel stronger and really good.
“I’m 48 and I’m showing up some of the younger guys in the gym because I’m in better shape. I feel both mentally and physically very healthy.”
He added: “I still can’t believe I had three brain aneurysms lurking and I just feel very lucky that they were caught in time.
“Jo’s support has been phenomenal. She was essentially looking after Jess on her own while watching me go through major surgery, which must have been really tough.
“Thanks to the excellent doctors, I get to spend time with my family and to watch Jessica grow up. I couldn’t ask for more.”