Spongy Handshake with Doctor Saves Man’s Life

By | August 8, 2017

It was nothing more than a warm handshake between two people meeting for the first time – but it was a gesture that saved Mark Gurrieri’s life.

The hand that clasped his belonged to a GP, Dr Chris Britt, who noticed a ‘fleshy and spongy’ feeling which instantly triggered his professional concern.

A glance at Mr Gurrieri’s large facial features all but confirmed his suspicions and set alarm bells ringing.

Dr Britt had recognised the symptoms of acromegaly, a life-threatening disease caused by a benign brain tumour that affects just three people in every million.

The chance meeting led to Mr Gurrieri visiting his own GP, who referred him to a specialist, and the growth was removed last month.

The life-saving handshake happened on December 6, when lifelong friend Rob Thompson brought Dr Britt to an Italian restaurant Mr Gurrieri runs in Canary Wharf.

“I came out to meet them at the door. My friend, Rob, brought Chris along for the first time,” he said.

“We shook hands and I sat them down at the table. He didn’t say anything to me at the time but he turned to Rob as soon as he sat down and said ‘I’m sure he has acromegaly, I can tell you. I’ll stake my career on it.’

“Rob didn’t tell me straight away. He came in two days later and was really nervous about telling me.

“I got straight on the internet. I read down the lines and saw the word ‘tumour’. That word is frightening, especially when it has to do with the head.

“I went to my GP with everything I could print off from the internet and waved it under his nose.

“He looked it up and said he wasn’t sure but would send me off for a blood test and MRI scan. They came back positive for acromegaly.”

The condition, in which a tumour grows on the pituitary gland, causes an increase in growth hormones that can cause giantism in children.

In adults, it causes soft tissues to be deposited in the hands and growth of the skull bones.

Other symptoms include blindness, diabetes, high blood pressure and weakening of the heart and kidney. If left untreated it can lead to premature death.

Mr Gurrieri, 36, from Loughton, Essex, who is divorced with one son, is believed to have had the condition for up to five years before it was diagnosed.

He said he had been feeling under the weather for some time and would fall asleep at a moment’s notice.

“I always had big hands but I noticed in recent years they had become quite chunky. I put it down to DIY at home and working in the kitchen,” he added.