Published Friday, 17 January 2014
Cara Officer, who was 26 weeks pregnant with baby Ewan when she died. (© UTV)
Thirty-six-year-old Cara Officer died at the Ulster hospital in June 2011 - she was 26 weeks pregnant and her son Ewan was stillborn.
In the week leading up to her death, she had complained of a headache and numbness and had gone to both her GP and hospital but had started to feel better.
"It went downhill on the Sunday, that's when I realised something wrong and I phoned the ambulance," her partner Ryan explained.
Cara's parents were in Portugal when they were told that she had passed away.
Her condition - a blood clotting disorder known as TTP which affects just six out of every million people in the United Kingdom - wasn't discovered until after her death, as she had never had a blood test.
She had a 90% chance of survival with a diagnosis, something the family only learned during the inquest.
"I was absolutely shocked," her mother Hazel told UTV.
"A lot of people in the court were concentrating on the 10% chance she had of dying, but I think we have to look on the positive side, she had a 90% chance of living and Cara was a fighter. She would have fought tooth and nail to stay with her two children and Ryan."
The family have said they hope lessons will be learned from Cara's death and that of her baby son.
Hazel added: "I think that the general public as well as doctors in a general practice or hospital need to be made more aware of these serious illnesses."
During the course of an inquest into her death, the coroner heard from a specialist who said if there had been an earlier diagnosis earlier she might still be alive.
A consultant haematologist with the Belfast Trust added it was difficult to diagnose but that he believed Ms Officer showed symptoms of clots forming in May 2011, a month before her death.
The difficulty in spotting TTP was also spoken about by an expert in general practice - he said it was unlikely a GP or midwife would have diagnosed Cara's condition.
On Friday Coroner John Leckey said with benefit of hindsight and acknowledgement of the rarity of the disorder, there were seven possible opportunities to carry out a blood test that could have led to detection of TTP.
But he agreed with medical experts who said that based on the clinical history and the symptoms Ms Officer presented, he would not expect the medical staff who saw her to suspect the condition.
Mr Leckey said he couldn't determine whether Ms Officer and her baby would have survived, but that the earlier a diagnosis was made the better their chances would have been.
In a statement, the South Eastern HSC Trust expressed its "deepest sympathy on the tragic death of Cara Officer and on the stillbirth of her son".
"Pregnancy is associated with many complications, some of which are life threatening," a spokesperson said.
"As the Senior Coroner has stated, this case was rare. Cara's tragic death has heightened the awareness of this rare disease which will make staff better prepared to manage a patient presenting with such an unusual condition like this in the future."
© UTV News