‘Hypochondriac’ mum sent home from A&E twice before ‘world shattering’ terminal cancer diagnosis
Laura Sims-Thickett was left to feel like a ‘hypochondriac’ after her symptoms were dismissed by doctors
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The 40-year-old suffered back pain so severe that she was left unable to walk in November 2021, but she was just sent away from A&E with painkillers. She went back to hospital later that month for blood tests, which failed to spot her cancer, and was once again sent home after being told it was likely a muscular issue.
Laura’s husband Paul was forced to carry her around the house over the next three weeks as she was in such extreme agony, and after returning to A&E in December, it was found she had broken three vertebrae and had stage two blood cancer myeloma. Myeloma is a type of bone marrow cancer and often affects several areas of the body, such as the spine, skull, pelvis and ribs.
Paul, 40, said the diagnosis has “shattered” the couple’s world and slammed the standard of care provided by Royal Stoke University Hospital for making his wife feel like a ‘hypochondriac’.
He said despite attempting to seek medical help on numerous occasions, Laura’s pleas were dismissed by both her local GP and A&E doctors. Even during her cancer treatment, he claims doctors hurried the mum-of-one through appointments to make room for beds.
Paul, from Sandyford, Stoke-on-Trent, said: “Laura started to get back ache quite a lot but we thought nothing of it at first. The GP said it was just muscular issue and prescribed painkillers. But she was doubled over on the floor, the pain was getting worse.
“I rang emergency services and they said it would be a 12 hour wait. I thought sod that and took myself. They sent her home twice from A&E and were told to speak to her GP again. It was getting to the point where I had to carry around the house because she couldn’t move.
“On November 24, for a third time I took her up A&E and they finally gave her a bed, it must’ve twigged. But nobody bothered to examine her. They dismissed her as if she was some sort of hypochondriac.
“She was in pain all night, on a drip, she couldn’t move and buzzed for nurses for the toilet but they didn’t help her quick enough. Again her doctor said it just sounds like a muscular issue, go see with your GP. She knew something was wrong and she couldn’t get anyone to believe her. We couldn’t get across the seriousness of the pain she was in. Nobody listened to us.”
Paul said Laura was finally diagnosed in December and due to the type of cancer she has, “all the calcium was leaking out of her bones and making them weak.”
Three of her vertebrae were broken, two were fractured and one had started “crumbling to chalk”, he added. But even after starting treatment, Paul said his wife was repeatedly pressured to go home to “free up a bed”.
‘It’s taken its toll’
Laura, who has cerebral palsy, was given Velcade injection treatment and eventually went into remission but the cancer sadly returned in December last year.
In another blow to the family, web developer Paul was made redundant shortly after the cancer came back and has now been forced to set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to help pay for household bills while he takes 12 months out to care for his wife.
He said: “She had never smoked, never taken drugs, and we don’t drink, and then to be told she’s got this life condition that will eventually kill her at the end of it all. We didn’t explain to our daughter what was going on, just that she was having treatment for her blood.”
Paul said he is using everything he has in savings to pay for the bills and the situation has “taken its toll emotionally, physically and financially”.
He added: “Talk about kicking a man while he’s down. I’m going to deplete all of my money before I even touch the money raised. Even as Laura’s carer I would get £97-a-week, which wouldn’t cover my energy bill.”
The couple are angry at the level of care provided by the hospital, as well as Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (MPFT) which provides community care.
Royal Stoke Hospital chief nurse Ann-Marie Riley said: “We will always aim to deliver the highest standards of care possible and apologise if they have not been met.
“We will investigate when patients and families raise concerns about the care provided in our hospitals, to resolve any issues and see if there are lessons to be learnt. We would encourage Mr Sims-Thickett to speak to our patient advice and liaison team who can provide support.”
An MPFT spokesman said: “Although we cannot comment about individual patients without their permission, when a patient is admitted into the care of the community nursing team a full assessment of need is carried out together with the patient and their carer to determine appropriate treatment and care.
“Assessing the patient’s risk of developing pressure damage is the first step in pressure ulcer prevention. Once a level of risk has been identified, then the correct advice, plan of care, treatment, and equipment to suit individual needs can be provided with the agreement of the patient.
“Trust staff will work closely with the patient and their carer to minimise the risk of or exacerbation of skin breakdown. We are sorry Mr Sims-Thickett is not happy with the care provided to his wife and we are always happy to address any concerns about the care we provide via our patient advice and liaison service.”