THE exact reason why a Sunderland grandmother died just days after undergoing weight-loss surgery remains a mystery.
Ann Young, 49, collapsed at her home in Ford Estate and died in the accident an emergency department of Sunderland Royal Hospital on October 9 – just four days after she had a gastric bypass at the hospital.
I can’t link the surgery and death other than by time.Home Office Pathologist Dr Jennifer Bolton
An inquest into her death heard that she had an enlarged heart – which was undetected by standard ECGs – and that she “most probably” died from a cardiac arrest.
Mrs Young had dropped her weight to 126kg (19 stone 12lbs) by the time she had her procedure, and had a body mass index (BMI) of 50 – twice that recommended for women of her age.
The care assistant, who lived with husband Paul, had been due to be discharged two days after surgery, but was kept in an extra night due to sickness, a common side effect of the procedure, Sunderland Coroner Derek Winter was told.
She was discharged on October 8, but was re-admitted with sickness later that evening, only to return home on October 9, the day she died.
Home office pathologist, Dr Jennifer Bolton, said she had been unable to find a cause of death during a post-mortem examination, recording it as “unascertained”, but said that “most probably” Mrs Young had a heart attack.
She said the sutures were intact and there was no sign of infection in the wound, but that Mrs Young had an enlarged heart.
She said: “The fact that she was bigger meant that her heart was bigger because it would have to do more work pumping blood but, because there was no narrowing or furring of the arteries, the extra strain would not have been picked up by standard test.
“The important thing was she had a significantly-raised BMI.”
Her husband, Paul Young, a bus driver, said his wife – a grandmother of two – was in great discomfort after returning home on the morning of October 9.
“I rubbed her back and tried to do what I could to help her,” he said in a statement. “We went to bed and she started making moaning noises and her breathing was bad.”
Mr Young called 999 at 8.16pm and he said his wife “could barely walk” when two paramedics tried to escort her down the stairs. She collapsed on the landing and was taken to hospital unconscious.
Consultant bariatric surgeon Neil Jennings, who is part of a team of six surgeons who carry out 600 procedures a year, said that Mrs Young had been classified as “low risk”.
He said: “We have done just under 2,000 operations at Sunderland Royal Hospital and this is the first death we’ve had within a week of surgery.
“This is an incredibly unusual event. I was relieved in one way that actually the operation seems to have been successful. I don’t know why she died, I don’t think it was predictable.
“She had been kept back another day because she had nausea and vomiting, which is not an unexpected response to the procedure.”
Mr Winter said that he had investigated Mrs Young’s death after concerns from her family that the operation may have been implicated in her death.
He said: “It would appear that the procedure itself was carried out without incident.
“The outcome of the post mortem was such that Dr Bolton could not give the cause of death with any degree of certainty, however, she was able to rule out the procedure had been implicated in the death of Ann.”
Mr Winter said that on the balance of probabilities, Mrs Young died of an “unexplained cardiac event”.
He recorded a conclusion that Mrs Young died of natural causes.
He added: “Unfortunately, we cannot always find the answers to all the questions people might have.”