“We feel like we have lost our little girl” - Overstrand mother’s anger at doctors who missed her four-year-old daughter’s tell-tale cancer symptoms nine times
10:04 03 September 2014
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A distraught mother-of-three has spoken of her anger after doctors missed her four-year-old daughter’s cancer nine times.
Natalie Doughty, 23, took Carmel Lucas to Cromer Group Practice when she became sleepy, was covered in bruises and developed lumps on the back of her neck.
After being sent home nine times, Miss Doughty took Carmel to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (N&N) where a blood test revealed she had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, a cancer of the white blood cells.
“I was told the bruises were probably just from school,” said Miss Doughty. “But she is not an accident-prone child.
“I told the doctors I was not leaving the hospital until I knew she was well. We had to stay overnight and the next morning we were told it was leukaemia. She was practically riddled with it.”
Carmel was immediately transferred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital on July 9, where she spent a month undergoing chemotherapy.
She was readmitted to the Cambridge hospital three weeks ago.
“She doesn’t talk or anything any more,” said Miss Doughty, who lives in Overstrand. “She barely gives you a nod or a smile. We feel like we have lost our little girl. One minute she was fine and then the next minute she was unwell and not her usual self.
“When she got poorly she would be out for about an hour and then come back inside and cry and then sleep for the rest of the day.”
Miss Doughty has two other children with her partner Conan Lucas, 27 – who has Asperger syndrome – and is heavily pregnant with a fourth child.
The family has faced weeks of separation, with Miss Doughty staying with her mother in Leicester to have her baby and Mr Lucas remaining with Carmel at Addenbrooke’s.
The couple said they had shared their story to tell other parents not to give up and to keep going back to doctors if they felt something was wrong.
“If I had been one of those parents who took things to heart what doctors said the situation would have been very different,” said Mrs Doughty.
Nikki Morris, deputy chief executive of the Big C and head of clinical services, said symptoms of cancer were not always obvious and diagnosis for this type of cancer could be difficult. She said: “Symptoms can vary in different people and will manifest in different ways. For some people the symptoms can seem to come on very quickly.
“Bruises, lumps and a rash are all symptoms that can be attributed to this cancer but equally they could be something else. It is important to get specialist advice from the clinician at the hospital and a physical examination.”
Cromer Group Practice said: “We would like to offer our sympathy in regard to the child’s diagnosis and offer our continued support and involvement with the child’s care.
“We are sorry to learn that the patient’s parents are unhappy with our service and we encourage them to use our complaints procedure so that we can respond through the appropriate channels.”
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