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PODCAST: 'Irene didn't have to die and now she's part of this scandal'

Stephen Teap said he went public with his story this year so he can tell his boys when they grow up that he did everything he could.

Image: Stephen Teap

When tragedy strikes it often falls to families to fight for answers, for change and for justice. TheJournal.ie’s podcast Left Behind, speaks to those accidental campaigners about their attempts to make sure other families never have to experience their pain. 


Source: Left Behind/SoundCloud

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WHEN IRENE TEAP was first diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2015, one of the first questions she asked her doctor was “How was this not picked up?”

She had gone to have all of her smear tests done – she’d had one just two years beforehand and another in 2010. The results all came back negative for abnormalities.

Irene would never find out that these smear slides had in fact given an indication that she was going to become ill. She died 10 months before the CervicalCheck scandal broke.

Irene’s husband Stephen said they were never told that an audit of her previous smear tests could even be done, nevermind that one was being done while she was still alive and receiving treatment.

A week before they were told her cancer was terminal, the audit had been concluded.

“So that day we were sitting in the CUH, Irene and I sitting on her bed and her big massive thick file sitting there with us and that audit result buried in the middle of it – we never knew about it at the time.

“We didn’t even know there was an audit going on, nevermind that the answer was sitting there in our company.”

In May this year, Teap received a call from the HSE informing him that his wife was one of 221 women impacted by the scandal and one of the 17 cited in the media at the time as having died.

He said when he found out he started “trembling and shaking”.

Your vision goes blurred, you’re literally just completely shocked by it.

Teap said he had just begun to get some structure in place, adjusting to being without Irene and raising their two young boys Noah and Oscar on his own. The news brought back down to “rock bottom”.

‘She fought so bravely’

His decision to go public with his story was for the boys. They are too young to understand now, but he knows in the future the will ask what happened to their mother and what he did about it.

Originally it was just going to be me explaining cervical cancer, that their mother took on this massive fight and fought so bravely but unfortunately it wasn’t hers to win. Now there was the additional piece that was handed to me that night that Irene was almost failed by the system to a certain extent with these misread smears and that she didn’t have to die and now she’s part of this scandal.

He said he found it “extremely disrespectful” to hear his wife being referred to as “one of 17″. He wanted people to know her name, to know how she had fought her disease and to know that she was a person with a family that missed her terribly.

Now he wants to “get answers and fix as much of it as I possibly can”.

“The pain that the three of us went through – Oscar Noah and myself – when Irene first passed way is something no one should go through, particularly if can be avoided.”

He said we will only know the full extent of this scandal when each of the people impacted gets their own independent review, to answer the “burning question” about whether their misread smears fall into the limitations of screening or negligently misread. 

In mid-December, Teap’s solicitor got their independent expert review of Irene’s smears back. 

Her medical review is finally back for the first time eight months later – we got confirmation that it was negligently misread and there was a breach of duty of care.

He said this is a confirmation for him that “the system failed her, [and] she did not have to have cancer”.

TheJournal.ie spoke to Teap before the announcement of a tribunal to deal with claims arising from the CervicalCheck scandal on 19 December. 

At the time, Teap said the reaction from the HSE and the government had so far been “absolutely horrendous from the get go”.

“They have never once been in control of this, they have just been in the position of reacting.”

“We are still at the very early stages of this scandal, we are only scratching the surface of it still,” he said.

Listen to Stephen Teap’s episode of Left Behind here.

The Left Behind podcast is presented by TheJournal.ie’s Senior Reporter Michelle Hennessy, and produced and edited by Nicky Ryan.  

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