Mother-of-two to sue health centre after coma scare

Caroline Doyle with her mum, Alexis Cunningham. Picture: Jayne Wright
Caroline Doyle with her mum, Alexis Cunningham. Picture: Jayne Wright
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A MUM who fell into a coma after suffering severe blood clots has vowed to sue a health centre – claiming it refused to send a doctor out to treat a simple “sore leg”.

Caroline Doyle, 32, had to have emergency surgery on her leg to remove three clots before falling into a coma for ten days and nearly dying.

Mrs Doyle today claimed Craigshill Health Centre in Livingston refused her a home visit by a doctor despite repeated calls over several days, and said she believes her condition would not have become so serious if the problem had been detected sooner.

The mum-of-two, who lives in Craigshill with husband Gordon, 28, and daughters Amy, eight, and six-year-old Emma, began suffering acute pains in her legs on February 21.

The 32-year-old, who has a history of blood clots – known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – and last year lost her unborn baby Scott due to the condition, said: “I phoned the health centre and told them several times, but they just said I wasn’t getting a home visit for a sore leg.

“I was told they would leave painkillers at the front desk for me. When my mum came in five minutes later she phoned back and told the receptionist to tell a doctor they urgently had to come out and see me.

“I was in extreme pain, I was sweating buckets, my leg had started to swell, I was walking up and down the floor screaming in pain. The receptionist spoke to the duty doctor and her answer was, ‘tell her to give the painkillers a chance to kick in’. There was no way I would have been able to make it into the surgery myself.”

By this time, Mrs Doyle said her leg had swollen up to nearly twice its usual size.

Her husband, a kitchen porter at Dobbies Garden Centre, took the decision to drive her to the A&E department at St John’s Hospital in Livingston.

She was then transferred to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, where three blood clots were found in her leg and another two in her head and in a main artery leading to her heart.

“The surgeons put two massive slices in my leg to stop it more or less exploding and then they removed blood clots from my leg,” she said.

“But I went into respiratory arrest and I could no longer breathe for myself. I was in a coma for ten days.

“The nurses were only allowing really close family in to see me because it looked as if I wasn’t going to pull through.”

Mrs Doyle was eventually transferred back to St John’s but suffered another clot in the lung and one in her neck and had to be returned to specialist care in the ERI.

She said she was grateful for the work of the doctors and nurses who “saved her life” at the ERI, but criticised Craigshill Medical Centre for not sending a GP to examine her at home.

She said: “If a doctor had have been sent out to see me, perhaps they could have stopped the illness getting to the point it did – I nearly lost my life and my daughters nearly lost their mother.”

Dr Simon Noble, of the DVT charity Lifeblood, said: “It’s vital that as health professionals we are aware of the risk factors that predispose people to DVT and consider DVT when assessing patients with painful, swollen legs. The sooner DVT is diagnosed the sooner it can be treated.

“Untreated, it may worsen and in some cases some of that thrombosis may end up in the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism. This can be fatal.”

Mrs Doyle sent a formal complaint letter to the practice this week and has contacted her solicitor about legal action, planning to bring a case against the practice for negligence.

Janet Butler, practice manager of Craigshill Medical Centre, said: “It’s not our policy to discuss individual patient care publicly, but if the patient wishes to contact the health centre, their concerns will be investigated thoroughly through the normal channels.”

IN THE BALANCE

According to the thrombosis charity Lifeblood, one in 1000 people every year in the UK are affected by deep vein thrombosis.

Up to one in ten people who suffer a pulmonary embolism will die if not treated.

About one in every 1000 women develops thrombosis during pregnancy, which can lead to long-term health problems. One in three surgical patients can develop a DVT if no prevention is given. Venous thromboembolism – or VTE – is the most common cause of hospital deaths in the UK that can be prevented.