Family hope lessons learned from inquest

Published Friday, 17 January 2014
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The family of a pregnant woman who died from a rare blood disorder have said they hope lessons will be learnt from her death.

Family hope lessons learned from inquest
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
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2 Comments
nigel dale in carrickmacross wrote (311 days ago):
thinking of the family my partener has ttp we have lived with the disorder for 20 years we lost a child too it too she has relapsing ttp and when it recurrs the treatment must be asap but its very intense plasma exchanges drugs it is very scary but my good lady reacts badly to fresh frozen plasma exchanges so she has to have octoplas in stead its very draining on her but we get monthly bloods done after an episode bloods are done weekly as a matter of course again sorry to the family for there loss .
Frankie McKay in Ballymoney wrote (311 days ago):
I was saddened to hear of Cara's tragic story. I was treated for TTP 5 years ago. I had flu like symptoms initially but having a history of Lupus I was admitted to Causeway Hospital. It was thought my condition was side effects of drugs I was on for the Lupus. Over the days that followed I had good and bad days and the medics felt it was still due to the medications I'd been on. I had platelet and blood transfusions but my bloods were all over the place. Then on the 8th day my condition really plummeted.My family were beside themselves I am married with a daughter and son who were 9 and 5 yrs old. I then saw my rheumatologist and a planned transfer to Antrim Hospital. There still was no urgency even though by now we all thought I had some sort of cancer or something. I went to Antrim and only then was it diagnosed! That was two wks from the initial symptoms. The medical team crowded around my bed cause they'd never met a person with TTP before. I was blue lighted to the BCH and had platelet replacement therapy. I never fully appreciated how close I came to dying but it again shows that even in hospital it was not easily identified! I feel blessed that I was treated on time by a great team in The City Hospital It is a heart breaking thought that Cara didn't get that chance. I'm not someone who comments on news stories at all but given the rarity of TTP I felt compelled to reply. My prayers go to Cara's little girl, her partner and parents on their loss and for the little angel they didn't get a chance to know.
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