A WOMAN with an extremely rare, 'melon-sized' internal growth on her hip would have died if she had not been admitted to A&E, an inquiry has heard.
Mother-of-one Joanne Kelly was diagnosed with the intra-abdominal actinomycosis – an infectious mass on her pelvis, which was blocking her ureter, a tube leading from her kidney to her bladder.
A Medical Council inquiry into the treatment afforded to Mrs Kelly by her doctor – Tonya Timmons – has heard that she was just one of three people in Ireland seen with the disease by the head of the infectious diseases department at Dublin's Beaumont Hospital.
Dr Timmons, who was working as a GP at the Coolock Health Centre at the time, faces a number of allegations of poor professional performance in relation to her treatment of childcare worker Mrs Kelly between August and October 2011. She is contesting all of the allegations against her.
The inquiry heard that Mrs Kelly was initially seen by Dr Timmons on two occasions during August 2011 because she was suffering from back pain and had difficulty picking up her four-month-old baby.
Dr Timmons diagnosed her with a suspected urinary tract infection.
Conflicting accounts were given of two subsequent consultations between Dr Timmons and Mrs Kelly, which are the subject of allegations.
Mrs Kelly told the inquiry that on September 16, 2011, she told Dr Timmons she was suffering from continued pain in her back, pain in her groin, dizziness and weight loss.
She said Dr Timmons told her she was suffering from sciatica and that exercise could help the condition.
Mrs Kelly said that by the time of a visit on October 4, her lips had turned blue, she was having difficulty walking and had fainted a number of times. She said Dr Timmons gave her a prescription for painkillers.
Two weeks later, she attended Beaumont Hospital, where, following a series of tests over four days, Mrs Kelly was diagnosed with an intra-abdominal actinomycosis.
In her evidence to the inquiry, Dr Timmons said that on September 16 Mrs Kelly was looking for a prescription for the contraceptive pill and only mentioned her hip pain at the end of the consultation.
She told Mrs Kelly she was suffering from sciatica and prescribed painkillers. She maintained that Mrs Kelly did not make any mention of being nauseous or losing weight.
Dr Timmons said during the October 4 consultation Mrs Kelly told her that the pain in her hip and buttock was on-going but was abating.
"There was nothing serious or alarming reported to me," she said of the consultation.
Dr Timmons said that if the patient had complained of any of the symptoms she had now outlined to the inquiry, she would have immediately referred her to A&E.
Professor Samuel McConkey, head of the International Health and Tropical Medicine Department at Beaumont Hospital, told the inquiry that Mrs Kelly's infection was very rare and potentially fatal.
By the time the infection was discovered, the growth was the size of a melon. He said Ms Kelly required an emergency draining of her bladder and very high doses of intravenous penicillin over a number of weeks.
The inquiry was adjourned and the fitness to practise committee is due to deliver its ruling tomorrow.