Woman 'died from rare disorder'

Published Tuesday, 07 January 2014
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An inquest into the death of an east Belfast woman has heard how the blood disorder that killed her is so rare some doctors never see it during their careers.

Woman 'died from rare disorder'
Cara Officer, who was 26 weeks pregnant with baby Ewan when she died. (© UTV)

Cara Officer was 36 when she died at the Ulster hospital in June 2011.

The 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, but on Tuesday a specialist told the inquest if it had been diagnosed earlier she might still be alive.

A consultant haematologist with the Belfast Trust said it was difficult to diagnose but that he believed Cara showed symptoms of clots forming in May 2011, a month before her death.

In his medical report, Dr Gary Benson said "an earlier diagnosis would have reduced the amount of clot burden and I believe may have prevented her death".

Crucially Cara, who was 26 weeks pregnant, never had a blood test carried out. Her son Ewan was stillborn.

The difficulty in spotting TTP was also spoken about by an expert in general practice. Dr Keith Steele said it was unlikely a GP or midwife would have diagnosed Cara's condition.

Dr Lorna Holmes - who had been Cara's GP for over 10 years - told how she had seen her twice in the week leading up to her death. She had advised her to attend Accident and Emergency because of symptoms which included a headache. Instead Cara was seen at the Day Obstetrics Unit, where she was diagnosed as having a migraine.

In a follow up appointment on the Friday of that week, her GP advised her not to fly on a planned holiday to Majorca, or drive as she felt she was still recovering from her illness.

When asked why she didn't request a blood test, Dr Holmes explained how Cara had been tired. She put it down to spending time in hospital with her daughter who had been ill and had missed sleep.

The court heard from the family's lawyer how when Cara's partner Ryan went to see Dr Holmes after Cara died he found her in a distressed state.

He said: "I was very, very upset that Cara died. I'm still very upset that Cara died."

The inquest continues.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
cheryl in vermillion,sd wrote (383 days ago):
As another survivor of this illness, while reading through this article reminds me of some of the symptoms that I had as well. Also, I can see how the situation wasnt caught in time if there were other factors going on as well. When I had my symptoms the first time (I have had 2 reoccurances)my husband had just passed away unexpectedly and there was alot going on in my life. Me and my family related everything and all the symptoms to over stressed. With everything that I was going through at the time, there was also alot of stress as you can imagine. Im sorry for her family, I wish that they could have diagnosed her sooner. :(
Siobhan in Essex, England wrote (387 days ago):
As someone who's survived this illness, reading through the article I can see some of the symptoms I had myself, but unfortunately not all of us show before we get ill. Not enough people know about this illness, and not enough is known about it's causes. As it stands at the moment, anyone could be one of those six-in-a-million. I'm sorry to her family that she was one of the unfortunate ones who could not be treated in time.
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