Tuesday 25 September 2018

'My dad is so angry' - Family discover mother is one of the 17 affected by cervical cancer scandal... six years after her death

Grace Rattigan with family
Grace Rattigan with family
Catherine Reck's daughter Grace Rattigan pictured with her daughter
Grace's beloved mum Catherine Reck

Rachel Farrell

The daughter of one of the 17 women who died as a result of incorrect smear tests result said the news has left their family feeling "numb".

Up to 17 women have died in connection with a smear testing error, a CervicalCheck audit revealed.

Grace Rattigan said her family were told on Thursday that their mother Catherine Reck had an incorrect result on her smear test in 2010. 

Catherine went for a routine smear test in November 2010, but the results didn't show a cause for alarm at first. 

Grace's beloved mum Catherine Reck
Grace's beloved mum Catherine Reck

"It was reported as low-grade abnormalities on the smear, I remember she rang me that night to tell me," Grace told Independent.ie

"It was when the bleeding began shortly after that it kept going and she knew something was wrong. She went for a colposcopy in April 2011 after that.

"She was diagnosed with stage three cervical cancer in August 2011, and treatment began in October after the usual scans and tests. The problem is, she should've been diagnosed in January."

Catherine tragically passed away on April 13, 2012 at the age of 48. Her family remained oblivious to the test results, believing their case was unfortunate. Grace's wedding was three months away, and she found out she was pregnant three days before her mother passed.

Catherine Reck's daughter Grace Rattigan pictured with her daughter
Catherine Reck's daughter Grace Rattigan pictured with her daughter

When the news first broke about incorrect smear results this month, Grace admits she tried to remove herself from the situation at first. 

"I had seen something was going on but I took myself away from it at the start. It wasn't until last Tuesday when I got a news bulletin on my phone to say '17 women are dead' that I called my dad and told him we had to get in touch with Cervical Check just in case."

Grace said that her family got in touch with CervicalCheck this week and on Thursday were invited to Tallaght Hospital to speak with Catherine's doctor.

"We were brought into a colposcopy examination room with the doctor that originally diagnosed Catherine. The nurse was empathetic, but the doctor was almost shaking.

Grace Rettigan and family
Grace Rettigan and family

"She knew she was the one that withheld the information from us after our mother died. It was the way we were dealt with it, that unit was not somewhere I wanted to be. By the time we got into that room we were seething with anger."

The doctor informed the family that they were made aware of the test discrepancies in 2016. They questioned why they weren't told straight away.

"My dad asked them 'who found this out?'. She said she felt that maybe we wouldn't want to know since my mam had already passed. But it isn't their choice to morally make.

"They didn't not tell us to protect us, they hid it to protect themselves."

Grace explains that there was a handwritten note by the doctor on the sheet, reading: "find out if the patient is alive or not". When they saw this, they were left feeling "numb".

"My dad is so angry, confused and numb. I go straight to being the logical one. It's such an odd feeling for all of us, it's like being taken back again.

"How do you deal with not knowing? We've learnt to rebuild our lives, it's been six years. We've found 'the new normal' without mam, but now we feel like we're back to square one."

Grace started a blog a year and a half ago to encourage women to get their smears. She hopes that women will continue to get regularly checked, despite the news over the last few weeks.

"I still have faith in the system, I speak to women every day that have had abnormalities that were resolved.

"Something needs to be reformed, particularly the process in which it's done and how people are dealt with. I would hate to see the smear uptake stop, I can't stress enough how important it is that people still need to get smears.

"We're not out for blood or attention, we're not those type of people. We just want change, we just don’t what any more women or families to go through what Catherine did."

Independent.ie reached out to HSE for comment but a spokesperson advised that they cannot comment on individual cases.

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