Tug boat skipper William Coleshill is used to the throb of the engine beneath his feet but paid less attention to the pulsating feeling in his own body.
It was a sign of trouble below decks and his GP was amazed to hear William had been living with the sensation for several years.
“I don’t like to make a fuss,” said the 83 year-old who still works at sea towing decommissioned ships to new ports or shipwrecking yards on the coasts of Turkey and Pakistan.
In reality, William was a ticking time bomb as the main artery leading out of his heart had swollen to a point where it was threatening to burst.
A surgical procedure nearly a decade earlier had addressed the problem but had begun to leak, putting his life at risk again.
Nung Rudarakanchana, a vascular and endovascular surgeon at Northwick Park, said: “If the artery had burst he could literarily have dropped down dead so it’s great to give him a new lease of life.
Nung was tasked with replacing the existing stent – a fine mesh-like tube covered in fabric – that stops the artery from rupturing.
“It’s big procedure which involves opening up the abdominal cavity and I had to unpick parts of the existing stent from the artery wall. It’s a long delicate procedure and Mr Coleshill has made an extraordinary recovery considering his age.”
William is thankful but remains unflustered about his brush with death.
“I’ve survived Force Eleven gales where the waves have been bigger tower blocks. You just have to stay calm and ride it out.”