“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

Conan and Natalie Lucas from Cromer, Norfolk who's 4 year old daughter Carmel had her Leukemia cancer misdiagnosed 9 times. Picture by Alban Donohoe. Conan and Natalie Lucas from Cromer, Norfolk who's 4 year old daughter Carmel had her Leukemia cancer misdiagnosed 9 times. Picture by Alban Donohoe.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014
10:04 AM

A distraught mother-of-three has spoken of her anger after doctors missed her four-year-old daughter’s cancer nine times.

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Cromer Group Practice doctors' surgery on Overstrand Road, Cromer.
 Picture: Antony Kelly.Cromer Group Practice doctors' surgery on Overstrand Road, Cromer. Picture: Antony Kelly.

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.”

Conan and Natalie Lucas with their 4 year old daughter Carmel (centre), 
3 year old son Hunter (left) and 18 month old daughter Luna (right) wearing orange as part of cancer awareness. Picture by Alban Donohoe
.Conan and Natalie Lucas with their 4 year old daughter Carmel (centre), 3 year old son Hunter (left) and 18 month old daughter Luna (right) wearing orange as part of cancer awareness. Picture by Alban Donohoe .

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.”

Doctors dismissed Carmel's condition as a viral infection. Picture by Alban Donohoe .Doctors dismissed Carmel's condition as a viral infection. Picture by Alban Donohoe .

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.”

Are you upset with treatment you have received? Email sabah.meddings@archant.co.uk

13 comments

  • I am so sorry for this family and their little girl it is a terrible ordeal for them to go through. However I am with the Group Practice and can say I cannot praise my own Doctor enough. We have been with him for 26yrs., and he has always gone that little bit over and above what is expected of your usual GP. I cannot praise him enough.

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    Anne Buxton

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

  • No idea about this case and it's too sad to comment. But will say not at all impressed with our local surgery and by what many friends say, neither are they. As for making complaints, experience says 'they will not listen' We have comments on here implying we should leave it to the professionals. Sorry, gone are those days when the public was docile and told that 'nanny' knows best. Maybe one day the voice of the local public will be heard on our primary care in the district

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    weaversway

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

  • The point of the article is blatantly obvious, if you feel there is something wrong Listen to your instincts, don't be fobbed off! Wishing the family well and a speedy recovery for little Carmel

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    catalonia13

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

  • Poor journalism here I'm afraid.. Completely one sided with no chance of hearing the other side due to Data Protection. Fail to see what is being reported that is in the public interest here? Is the lady accusing the surgery of causing her child's illness? Or is it simply an, admittedly distressing and unfortunate, case of a Dr misdiagnosing (they are human after all) I have every sympathy with the family, and totally understand her distress at her child's illness but what exactly is the point of the article? Looks like the reporter thought she had a headline and made a story to fill the piece with no research or interest in giving a balanced view. I know it's quiet up here in Norfolk but please concentrate on News!

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    Crabby

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • And note how the article ends:.... "..Are you upset with treatment you have received? Email sabah.meddings@archant.co.uk.." . In other words , if you are happy with the treatment you received ( as the vast majority are ) then don,t bother to contact the EDP.

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    LARSON.E. WHIPSNADE

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • No complaint appears yet to have been made to the surgery under NHS Complaints process - so this again is 'trial by media', with only one side of the story being reported. Accept that a complaint will be lodged - why did the EDP act so 'gung ho 'before due process...... Larson.E is spot on - and that does call into question whole balance of EDP reporting - or is a good headline too good an opportunity to miss! If there are failings then let them be investigated and acted upon - for the patient's benefit (and us all!!). There is a due process - then report the issues in balanced and fair manner. Shoddy journalism, more akin to a certain infamous national than the EDP! Hope things get better for you and the family Natalie, and thinking of Carmel. Stay strong for her - but spend your time positively, rather than worrying about forums and posts.

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    walkerman1009

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • Thank you for highlighting this Natalie. You would think after NINE visits you would have been referred to hospital. Some GPs think they are gods. I was seeing a GP for over a year regarding a spot on my face. Every time I went she told me to keep using the cream she prescribed. One time I saw a different GP for something else and as I left I remembered I needed more cream. He was horrified that I hadn't been referred to hospital after a year of using this cream and arranged an urgent appt for me at the N and N where they said I had skin cancer and needed surgery. I often wonder how many years she would have let me continue using the cream without referring me to a consultant who knew more than she did.

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    samphirelover

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • Bless you Natalie, things must be so difficult for you. We raised medical concerns with our son to our GP and health visitor when he was 10 weeks old. We were told that 'every child is different' and that basically I was panicking because I was a first time mother. He was finally diagnosed with Hirschsprung's disorder when he was 6 years old. Four bouts of surgery later he is a healthy little boy, but these surgeries should have been done when he was a baby and we would have been spared years of pain for him and frustration for us. No one knows your child better than you and well done for escalating the matter. Best wishes to you and your family for the future and a speedy recovery for Carmel x

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    Catty

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • Oh and just to add we have not been paid by edp for story so we have given our story purely for other parents to be warned x

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    Natalie Doughty

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • Not odd at all, I have just given birth so am in hospital myself, and our daughter Carmel is still in addenbrookes undergoing operations etc so I think given current circumstances its ok for us to be abit delayed. we are already in process of complaints procedure we want to make sure we do it properly by going through the proper channels. So before you judge please get all facts right.

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    Natalie Doughty

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • You have only heard one side of the story , the doctors in this case will almost certainly have a differing version of events. You won't hear their version as the rules of confidentiality prevent them from discussing a patient's treatment in a public forum. I note the parents appear not to have made a complaint to the surgery involved.....very odd.

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    LARSON.E. WHIPSNADE

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • If a Headteacher or school does not perform well (inadequate Ofsted's etc) they normally resign or are asked to leave 'quietly' AND they are named. This does not happen in the medical profession as they have a powerful governing body with measures to control media (as is proven here otherwise this paper would name individuals) and other comments. This has also been demonstrated recently in the current Southampton fiasco. Of course some commenters will immediately rush to the defence of 'the profession'. Teachers and other public sector workers don't enjoy that privilege. Don't expect things to change either.

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    One Horse Town

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • It's a fact.... Local Doctors sit in their office from 9 to 6 five days a week and no outside hours and do not listen to a mums intuition. As regards patients googling their symptoms, perhap More Doctors will approach this as a benefit and not feel that we the minority are treading on their toes. And they get vastly over the top salaries. A and E doctors earn every penny and work totally unsocial hours.

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    MIKEJ

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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