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Mum dies of cancer after doctors said it was arthritis

May 30 2007

A MUM-OF-FOUR has died of cancer - three months after she was misdiagnosed with arthritis.

Doctors at Pound Hill Surgery told Sara O'Connell she was suffering from arthritis in February after she complained of excruciating back pain.

But on May 19, the 47-year-old died of bone cancer, leaving daughters Sharna, five, Katie, 20, Zoe, 22, and Ria, 25, and 22-month-old grandson Ryan behind.

Now two of her devastated daughters have spoken of their anger at the blunders which led to their mother's death.

Katie Chantler, the second youngest of Ms O'Connell's daughters,paid tribute to her mum who she describes as the "centre of the family".

She said: "You just get so angry and it really hurts.You think 'how can she have been treated like that?'.

"Mum went to the doctors first of all in January after she pulled something in her back cleaning her teeth.

"She was told it was just a slipped nerve but the pain got worse, she went backwards and forwards for months before they wrongly diagnosed her with arthritis.

"It was terrible, every time she laid or moved she was in pain. Every bit of her body was hurting.

She added: "Most nights she slept in the armchair because she couldn't make it upstairs. The feeling of watching someone suffering that you love is just awful."

On several occasions family members called paramedics after finding Ms. O'Connell in agony but were told to seek help from their normal GP, who suggested taking more painkillers.

Katie said: "By this time she was on so many tablets, every week they were giving her something stronger but it had no effect.

"We just felt so alone. All we could think it 'why isn't anyone helping us?'"

On March 12, Ms O'Connell was sent to a rheumatologist at East Surrey Hospital to deal with the "severity" of her arthritis.

She was kept in hospital, with medics telling the family they were concerned about the amount of pain she was in.

Within two weeks they had diagnosed cancer - but told her devastated daughters it was too late to save their mother's life as it had spread irreversibly through her spine,arms and a kidney.

Katie's sister, Zoe, said treatment at East Surrey also fell below par, with poor hygiene and levels of care.

She said: "We just wanted to her to have her dignity and East Surrey did not give her that."

A statement released by Brian Hughes, head of corporate affairs at West Sussex PCT to The News said: "I would encourage the family to contact the Primary Care Trust or her GP practice.

"At this stage and in view of patient confidentiality we are unable to comment further."

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