Saturday 16 December 2017

How young mother Caroline saved her own life by staging 13-hour A&E sit-in

Caroline Sherwin. Photo: Douglas O'Connor
Caroline Sherwin. Photo: Douglas O'Connor

Gerry Hand and Alan O’Keeffe

A young mother believes she may have saved her own life by refusing to leave a hospital emergency department.

Caroline Sherwin held a sit-in protest when told to go home by hospital staff.

She was frightened she had cancer and demanded to be seen by a specialist. She ended up receiving surgery the next morning.

The mother of 11-year-old twin girls had already been waiting for months to find out if lumps in her body were malignant. She had been told she would have to wait a further three months for a appointment with a specialist.

One of the lumps was in a lymph node.

She said she had reason to worry as four close female relatives had died of cancer aged in their 30s and 40s.

The surgeon who examined her after her 13 hour sit-in removed the lymph node just hours later.

Ms Sherwin (37), a hairdresser from Donacarney, Co Meath, had gone into the A&E in Drogheda's Our Lady Of Lourdes hospital last Thursday.

"I had been told I couldn't be seen (by a specialist) for another three months, the reality is I might not have been here in three months," she said.

An RCSI Hospital Group spokeswoman said: "We do not comment on individual cases. All patients are treated dependant on clinical need.

"Clinical need is assessed and reassessed as required. This can occur in the out patient department or the emergency department."

Last October, Ms Sherwin experienced severe head pains and ended up staying four weeks in hospital.

Lumps

"I had four lumps, three smaller ones on my neck and a large one on a lymph node which tests showed was severely inflamed.

"They did a biopsy on me and sent me home with a prescription for heavy duty painkillers. After three weeks, most of which I spent fretting about the likelihood of having cancer, I was told the biopsy had been unsuccessful and would have to be done again.

"Firstly, I was told I was being placed on a priority list to be seen by a specialist but because of the Christmas holiday period the quickest appointment I could get was early January".

Caroline contacted the hospital in January and was stunned to be told that her "priority" appointment had been downgraded to "standard" and had been pushed out to February 1.

After another agonising month-long wait Caroline was told that more lumps had developed and she should have another biopsy.

After three weeks of enquiring, she was told in the first week of March that it would be another three months before she was be seen by a specialist.

"That was the straw that broke the camel's back, last Thursday I went into A&E, sat down on a chair and told them that I was not leaving until I was properly diagnosed.

"After a few hours in which a doctor did come and speak to me I was moved from A&E to the Acute Assessment Unit. A different doctor examined the three smaller lumps and told me I would be put on a waiting list to see a specialist.

"I made it very clear I wasn't leaving the hospital until this was sorted.

She was told to go home as there was no beds available.

"I told them that the big lump on my lymph node had not been looked at and I wasn't budging until it was.

"At that stage I was in tears, I was embarrassed. The tears just kept flowing out of me in pure anger and frustration.' Finally, she was told that a surgeon would see her in half an hour.

"Fair play. That man did come and see me and having both read my file and examined me told those who were trying to shoo me out of the place that I had to be kept in as I needed immediate surgery on the lymph node," she said.

"He actually said that I had been waiting that long that doing a biopsy was pointless. The lump had to be removed," she said.

"I certainly don't regret what I did. I maybe would not be around in three months time for that biopsy.

"I felt like nobody was giving me the answers I needed. Instead they just kept moving me along and even still I'm left not knowing if the lumps are benign or malignant," she said.

She said she must wait until March 27 for an appointment to find out if the lump was malignant.

"I'm 37 with twin beautiful daughters trying to do the best I can but I don't want to tell them months down the line 'Sorry girls they didn't get to me on time and it's too late to cure it I'm sorry.'

"I'd advise anyone in the same position to do exactly what I done, until you meet them face to face you are just a number to HSE staff, they shuffle the cards around and are playing God with peoples lives," she said.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News