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'I was in pain all the time': Pregnant woman denied treatment for 'gangrenous ovarian cyst'

Kate Campbell had to have her ovary, fallopian tube and part of her abdominal wall removed.

Kate Campbell said she does not want any other woman to have the same experience she had.
Kate Campbell said she does not want any other woman to have the same experience she had.

A MOTHER-OF-three has said she was denied treatment for a painful and eventually gangrenous ovarian cyst that developed during one of her pregnancies until after she gave birth.

Kate Campbell was pregnant with her third child in 2008, when she found a pear-sized lump on her abdomen.

“I went to my GP because when you find a lump, you’re first thought it cancer. For me, I really wanted a diagnosis, I wanted to know what I had,” she said. “They were guessing that it was a mesenteric cyst but it was guesswork, they couldn’t see from the ultrasound what it was attached to or whether there was a blood supply going through it.”

The 48-year-old, who lives in Carlow with her husband and three children, told TheJournal.ie that she requested an MRI scan and a biopsy, but both requests were denied.

At the time I’d already had two kids. One I had without pain relief, so I said to the consultant ‘Get a needle, stick it in me, I’m a big girl I won’t cry’. I was just bewildered by it, I couldn’t understand that simple procedures were being denied to me.

At 34 weeks she was admitted to hospital with severe abdominal pain.

“The only medical care I received was 24 hours of pethidine [a type of painkiller] and an ultrasound,” she said. She was told her baby was fine and her lump was measured – it had grown since her initial scan.

IMG_20180518_184307 Kate Campbell pictured during her pregnancy in 2008.

“I was in really bad pain, any time I was active it would kick in. I had to spend a lot of time in bed and with the people around me I didn’t parade it, as much as I could I hid it from my kids and my friends, but I was in pain all the time,” Campbell explained.

Over the next number of weeks she asked for tests and to be induced early. When her due date arrived, she also asked to be induced, but this request was denied.

Two weeks after her due date she gave birth to her daughter without any complications, but she said she still “felt terrible”.

‘A lucky woman’

A fortnight later, she woke up in the middle of the night with “indescribable pain”. She had emergency surgery to remove the cyst and said she was told by her surgeon that she was “a lucky woman”.

The whole cyst had twisted in on itself and it had been rotting for weeks. They didn’t have a timescale but thought it was probably at 34 weeks when that first started to happen because of the pain I’d felt from that point. It got to the stage where the contents of it were nothing but black liquid.
The membrane of the cyst had adhered to my ovary and abdominal wall. My fallopian tube had collapsed as well. I lost my ovary, fallopian tube and part of the abdominal wall had to be scraped away.

“At some point it could have burst and I’m really lucky it didn’t because with that infection – basically a bag of rotten fluid pumped into your system – I could have been dead. I would have left behind a two-week-old baby, a four-year-old and a seven-year-old.”

Campbell decided in the last week to join the Eighth Amendment referendum campaign and to share her story, as she believes she would have had more control over her treatment if doctors had not “had their hands tied”.

‘Very unwell’

In an article last year, Dr Joe Aquilina, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at London Bridge Hospital, wrote that it is rare that a cyst needs to be removed during surgery.

However, he said this may be required if “a cyst develops on a stem from an ovary, and becomes twisted (torsion)”.

“If this happens, you may become very unwell and your ovary could be damaged.”

He also said doctors would consider removing the cyst if it was “causing pain or growing very quickly”.

“A cyst in early pregnancy can be removed using keyhole surgery (laparoscopy). However, if the cyst is large, or if you are in late pregnancy, your doctor may need to do the operation by making an incision in your tummy.”

Kate Campbell said she has moved on from what happened, but she wants to ensure other women do not go through the same experience.

“This is not about me anymore. I have two daughters and I don’t want them to grow up in an atmosphere where women’s bodies are disrespected in that way and women’s brains are disrespected – their own will.

“I don’t want anyone else to have to go through that.”

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