Leeds hospital wrongly tells man his partner has died

John Harrison
John Harrison
Have your say

A MAN is demanding answers after staff at a Leeds hospital told him his partner was dead - when she was still alive.

John Harrison was told Ann Saville had passed away suddenly at St James’s Hospital, where she had been undergoing cancer treatment.

But when he went to say his final goodbyes, Mr Harrison was astounded to realise his partner of 30 years was still breathing and had a pulse.

He says he had to persuade nurses that she was still alive - and then waited an hour for a doctor to come and assess her.

The 71-year-old remains in hospital, but is unresponsive after being starved of oxygen.

Hospital bosses have now launched an investigation into the incident, but Mr Harrison said he was desperate to know how the mistake happened.

“I cannot believe the course of events,” he said.

“They’re doctors - they’re supposed to know what they’re doing.”

Ms Saville, from Pudsey, Leeds, was diagnosed with leukaemia in December.

She initially had a 10-day course of chemotherapy as an in-patient and after tests, was told the illness had gone into remission.

“We thought ‘we are going to get through this’,” Mr Harrison said.

Ms Saville, who has been blind for 10 years, was told she would need a further course of chemotherapy which was initially to be given as an outpatient.

However after becoming ill she was taken back into the Bexley Wing, the specialist cancer centre at St James’s.

She had completed treatment and was waiting for her white blood cell count to increase before she was allowed home.

Mr Harrison said that on February 21, she was looking forward to coming home.

“She was doing brilliantly and there were no problems,” he added.

He returned home but at around 5.30am received a call from a nurse at the hospital.

“The nurse said ‘I am really sorry but we found Ann this morning collapsed. She’s not breathing and there are no signs of life’,” Mr Harrison said.

After Mr Harrison contacted Ms Saville’s brother, he was also told she had passed away and the pair went to St James’s.

There, Mr Harrison asked to go into his partner’s room to say goodbye.

He said nurses warned him she may appear to be breathing, but this was a medical phenomenon.

“I got hold of her hand to say goodbye and she was still warm and I could feel she was pulsing,” he said.

“I said to the nurses ‘she’s still alive’ and they said ‘she’s not, it’s this involuntary reaction’.”

After insisting again that Ms Saville was actually alive, Mr Harrison said nurses then checked and found a pulse - but said she would have to be assessed by a registrar.

He says that it took over an hour for the doctor to arrive and after they did, medical staff went straight into a meeting.

“I went to Ann’s room and looked through the window and they had put her on an oxygen machine and put her back on her drips,” Mr Harrison, 58, added.

Afterwards a doctor came to see her family and said she was still alive, but they didn’t know how long she would survive.

The medic warned that she had been starved of oxygen and could be brain damaged.

Since then Ms Saville has remained in hospital, breathing independently but unresponsive.

Hospital bosses have told him they have launched an investigationbutt Mr Harrison said: “It’s just like being in limbo. We seem to be left with no real information and people just saying they are sorry this has happened.

“She’s very fit. Nobody in hospital believed she was 71.”

Managers at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said they were investigating.

Dr David Jackson, Clinical Director of the Leeds Cancer Centre, said: “We acknowledge this is a very troubling time for Ms Saville’s family and can fully understand why they are finding it difficult to deal with this tragic turn of events.

“Our clinical team, including our matron and consultants, are reviewing Ms Saville and meeting with the family on a regular basis. This is a very complex and unusual circumstance and we have set up an investigation to look at the detail of the situation.

“In the meantime we will continue to do our best to support the family and to provide answers as and when they become available.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Click here to register and have your say on the stories and issues that matter to you