By Elaine Keogh / Photos: Ciara Wilkinson
Three weeks after she refused to leave a hospital emergency department until lumps in her neck were diagnosed, a Meath mother of two has found out she has cancer.
As she prepares for surgery, Caroline Sherwin (37) from Donacarney said, “my gut feeling was right.”
She feared they could be cancerous and she refused to leave the A&E in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda hospital until she knew what was the cause of the lumps. She did not believe it was due to a viral infection.
“I am speaking out not because I am angry but because I am afraid people are being forgotten about. Changes need to be made to our health system.”
“It has been 3 weeks since I sat it out in A&E and stood my ground not to leave until my lump was seen to and removed the next morning by a very understanding surgeon, who understood how stressed and worried I felt,” she said last night (Sunday).
Caroline felt pressurised to go home but she was so worried, especially as she has young daughters, that she refused to go home and wait for an appointment months in the future.
“I was there for 13 hours until a doctor came to me, read my file and said he wanted to operate to remove the lump.”
After the procedure she was told to go home and recover and she would have the results in about three weeks.
“Just over a week later I got a call to go and see him about the results. I knew deep down it was going to come and it was confirmed two days later, by the compassionate surgeon, that I had cancer and I would have to have more surgery to remove all my lymph nodes and thyroid,” she said last night.
Caroline said she is speaking out because she wants to highlight the state of the health system and her concerns that people who need treatment can be overlooked and “passed between doctors and departments which means diagnosis can be delayed and people do not get the treatment they need on time.”
“I want to stress that not everybody should go and sit in A&E but people need to put pressure on doctors to get the results and if they feel they are not getting their diagnosis and are being messed around, then they have to have the courage to do something about it.”
Caroline, who has twin girls (11) and is a hairdresser, said there are good doctors in the system who “do what they do for the love of the job and are compassionate but some of them have forgotten why they have chosen to do it and have got tied up in the bureaucracy. They are forgetting why they are there.”
“I want to thank all of my family and friends for their support which has been overwhelming and has got me this far.”
She says she made the right decision by refusing to leave earlier this month until they were examined.
She had previously been told her case was downgraded from priority to standard by a consultant she had been referred to.
“This began last October when I was kept in hospital for a month because of head pain and a biopsy was done on one of the lumps.”
However the biopsy was not successful and she was told she would need to get another one done and was put on a list to see a specialist.
Then this month she found out it would be at least another 3 months before that appointment and in the meantime more lumps had appeared.
“That was the straw that broke the camels back and made me decide I would stay in hospital until I had answers. My gut was telling me something was wrong.”
She said, “I hadn’t felt well in over 5 months and my gut feeling was right.”
“Now I know, part of me is relieved I now know there is a reason for feeling unwell and my actions that day in A&E was the right thing to do & was the best decision I’ve ever made.”
“If I had of waited months on end on hospital waiting lists to be seen things could been a whole lot worse. Now I’ll have my next operation and what ever treatment I need.”
“It is a long road ahead of me to get back on top but I will without a doubt But if theres one thing I will say, it is if you feel something is wrong it usually is. Trust your gut feeling and don’t give up no matter how challenging it may feel.”
A spokesperson for Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, one of the RCSI hospitals, said they do not comment on individual cases.