A beloved mother died just days after undergoing heart surgery she had waited years for.
Carlene Kershaw had spent two years waiting for crucial surgery to fix a leaking heart valve before finally having it.
But immediately afterwards, the 40-year-old from Hemel Hempstead tragically died after developing a blood clot.
After her surgery was delayed several times before finally taking place in 2021, she said she felt she was “not being taken seriously” by her GP or the NHS.
An inquest found her untimely death was the “horrific result” of a series of complications that arose following the four-hour operation she had at Hammersmith Hospital last year.
Coroner Lydia Brown led the inquest into the death.
My London/BPM MEDIA)
Carlene, who had worked as a probation officer for most of her career, first reported shortness of breath in August 2019 and later suffered from vomiting, headaches and chest tightness.
She didn’t have heart surgery until nearly two years later, and while the surgery initially looked positive, her condition quickly deteriorated.
Speak with MyLondon her brother Mark Coffey said that his sister “didn’t expect to die” and joked with her mother before the surgery.
He said: “She had just bought this house in Liverpool to start a new life, she was never allowed to live in this house.
“It’s incredibly horrible and she just didn’t deserve it and neither did her children. Now they don’t have their mother anymore, there was a huge disruption to a lot of things, it was awful.”
The court heard that two months later, after her first appointment in August, she returned to the outpatient clinic at Watford Hospital, where it was found that a heart valve was leaking.
“Following testing, it was determined in October that she had moderate mitral regurgitation and mild aortic regurgitation, which turned out to be congenital problems that had not previously caused her symptoms,” Ms Brown summarized.
The matter was referred to a multidisciplinary meeting, and since she did not have severe valve disease, there were discussions about having a TOE procedure performed.
This would be an echocardiogram through a telescope placed in Carlene’s esophagus to view her heart chambers.
However, due to difficulty swallowing, she became “restless and agitated” and the attempt was abandoned.
It was agreed that a follow-up appointment would be held in the new year, but consultant cardiologist Dr. Niall Keenan said in his testimony: “None of us knew in October 2019 that we were going to engage in the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The hospital canceled all surgeries and procedures as the cardiology team was redeployed to treat patients with coronavirus.
He told the West London Coroners Court Inquiry that it had been “very challenging” for Carlene to organize the echocardiogram during that time.
After months of delays, Carlene requested a transfer to Hammersmith Hospital to be treated by Dr. Bellamy being cared for as her case was increasingly “pushed aside” due to the ongoing pandemic.
Professor Punjabi, a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon, testified that he held a face-to-face meeting with Carlee to explain the risks of the surgery.
There is a 1 in 20 chance of death from all ages, according to UK statistics, but Carlene’s family said she had been given “many reassurances” that the operation was a routine procedure.
“Surgery was the only real option for Carlene and unless it was done fairly quickly there was a risk of further deterioration,” Ms Brown continued.
After arriving at the hospital for the surgery on June 3, 2021, she was taken to the theater only to be told at the last minute there were no beds available and she had to wait four days, an experience her brother said was ” traumatic”.
The four-hour trial finally took place on June 7 and was initially considered successful.
Professor Punjabi said she was “stable and stable” afterwards and all signs pointed to “superb surgery”, meaning she was extubated that same evening.
However, overnight her condition deteriorated and she was intubated, kept in intensive care and found to be having breathing difficulties.
In the days that followed, she needed support with her blood pressure, antibiotics, and suffered a “severe deterioration” on June 11.
Investigations revealed that she had developed a coronary artery clot that had to be surgically removed.
After this emergency procedure, attempts at resuscitation were tragically unsuccessful and she was pronounced dead.
Mark told MyLondon: “She had every possible scenario thrown at her, considering she was 1.6m tall, she was a short lady and she had to struggle through it all.
“She actually spoke to my mum pretty quickly after the surgery, but very, very briefly and never came around.
“I mean it was awful, when she got to the hospital she joked with my mum that she wasn’t morbid enough not to come back and she never did. It was incredibly traumatic for us.”
Carlene’s mother, Sandra, told the inquest that she was wrongly informed that her daughter had undergone a 10-hour surgical procedure and that she was “really shocked” by the swelling caused by Carlene’s condition.
Professor Punjabi told the inquest that she was “constantly monitored” and any signs of sepsis or the blood clot would have been noticed immediately had it happened sooner.
Ms Brown said: “It was a combination of events that really conspired against her to take her life.”
In a statement read by the coroner, her family said: “Carlene was a very caring, loving person and parent who put her children first, a daughter and a son.
“Carlene was a beloved daughter, sister and aunt, she was one of her mother Sandra’s four siblings. She was a highly respected probation officer who worked in the probation service with high-risk offenders and attempted to rehabilitate them.
“She has worked in this field all her professional life – she always tried to see the good in people, which made this job perfect for her.
“She graduated from university with two degrees, she was intelligent, sensitive and thoughtful. She was a strong, independent woman who loved life and spent time with her family and friends.”
Ms Brown concluded the inquest, saying: “It is difficult to draw a brief conclusion such as natural causes, this is not a natural death, it is unfortunately provoked by this surgical procedure which of course was totally undesirable.
“This is not an accidental death, there is nothing random in the planning or technical proficiency of this procedure.
“So I’m going to return a conclusion, known as a short narrative conclusion, to try and capture those elements. That this death was due to recognized complications of necessary surgical procedures.”
If you would like to donate to Carlene’s family, use the GoFundMe link here .
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/much-loved-mum-40-dies-26941466 'Much loved' mum, 40, dies days after heart surgery she'd waited two years for