THE family of a great grandmother were told she had cancer just hours before she died – despite medics spotting her tumour on an x-ray eight months earlier.
Patricia McQuade died at Sunderland Royal Hospital in May after being admitted for pneumonia.
When the 66-year-old slipped into a coma, doctors told her son Danny, 45, that she had a tumour on her lung, which had been picked up in an x-ray the previous September but not acted on.
Just 12 hours later, in the early hours on May 3, Patricia, from Roker, was dead.
Heartbroken Danny, and partner Joanne Knebel, have spent months trying to find out why the tumour wasn’t flagged up when it was detected.
He said: “We never got the chance to tell her she had cancer before she died.”
Mrs McQuade, a grandmother of six and great-grandmother of five, was admitted to the hospital in September 2013 after breaking her arm in a fall.
The 4.4cm tumour was picked up by a chest x-ray, which was carried out because doctors thought she might have had a chest infection.
The information was never shared with Mrs McQuade, her family or any other hospital departments and after treatment for her broken arm, she was released.
In the next eight months she became increasingly frail and eventually had to go back into hospital with pneumonia.
Hospital bosses today apologised to her family, who say they are considering legal action, and pledged that lessons must be learned from the blunder.
Sales assistant Joanne, 39, said: “She just deteriorated from an independent woman into someone who could do very little.
“The doctors apologised but I wonder what it would’ve been like for them if they had to watch someone they loved wish she was dead for the last five weeks of her life.
“She’d lost all of her dignity. She was so thin you could see the bones sticking out of her.”
Danny and Joanne, of Red House, say that following her death, they enlisted the help of Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson to help find answers.
Now, they have met with trust bosses who have given them the details of a full investigation into the blunder.
Danny, who works as a customer manager for More Than at Doxford Park, said: “She could have had a couple of extra months with us at least if this was picked up.
“For the last part of her life, we could have had help and support from people like Macmillan nurses if we’d known she had cancer, but we didn’t and the pain and sorrow we feel is terrible.
“Another thing we wonder is how many people this has happened too.”
A report by Home Office pathologist Dr Jennifer Bolton, a copy of which has been given to Danny and Joanne, states: “It is certainly possible that the tumour had already spread at the time of the first x-ray.
She added: “It may be likely that some form of palliative therapy would have been offered.
“It is likely that ultimately the cause of Mrs McQuade’s death would have remained the same even had the tumour been identified sooner with bronchopneumonia representing the terminal event.”
A spokeswoman for City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust said: “We would like to extend our sympathies once again to Mrs McQuade’s family on their sad loss. We have investigated the circumstances surrounding the failure to review Mrs McQuade’s x-ray and have met with her family to discuss the findings and to apologise for this error.
“Clearly in any investigation like this there are always lessons to be learned and we have, and will continue to, review our processes to minimise the risk of a similar incident happening in the future.”