Tragedy of woman in funding fight for life-changing surgery

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A WOMAN who had fought for a life-changing operation to ease a bowel condition which made her look heavily pregnant died from an accidental overdose of painkillers days after the surgery was cancelled.

Joanne Turton, 33, was left severely bloated as a result of the condition which she had since the age of 18.

It was eventually diagnosed and Ms Turton was due to trial a machine to relieve her symptoms.

The pacemaker-like device was to have been fitted in her bowel to regulate her movements, but the procedure known as gastric electrical stimulation, was cancelled at the last minute.

The mother-of-one, of Streatham Way, Hull, who had a condition called gastroparesis, which means the stomach muscles don’t work properly, died on April 28, while waiting for it to be rescheduled.

Her mother Barbara Turton described her as a wonderful person, who would always help those less fortunate than herself.

She said she had a burning question: “If funding was not withdrawn and she had the operation on April 9, would she still be with us today?”

In a statement she added: “She seemed to have to fight for her treatment and was even fighting with the help of a solicitor.

“Before Christmas 2012 she was eventually diagnosed with a low transit bowel which meant it wasn’t working properly so the body could not remove waste products. It answered why she was in so much in pain.

“Further treatment was going to be the fitment of a pacemaker that would electrically stimulate bowel movements. In February 2013 she was fitted with an external pacemaker to check if it would work. It was only fitted a few days and the trial was seen as a success.

“Funding was secured by the NHS and the operation was due to take place on April 9, but then it was cancelled due to withdrawal of funding, with the excuse that there was the lack of expertise at Castle Hill Hospital.

“She was upset and went to see her MP Karl Turner, who as far as I am aware, managed to secure funding and was trying to get it arranged at a hospital in Leeds.”

Mrs Turton said her daughter organised media coverage to highlight her plight. “She was a fighter and never gave up.

“It would have meant so much – she would have been able to live a normal life free of medication.”

The inquest was told Ms Turton was found on the kitchen floor by her boyfriend at her home in Streatham Way in the morning of April 28.

She had probably been trying to make breakfast when she collapsed.

Pathologist Dr Ian Richmond said Ms Turton, who also suffered from bi-polar disorder, had two or three times the levels of opiates in her blood that he had seen in other overdose cases. She had been using morphine for a long time. He added: “The opiate level was within the fatal range.”

Her boyfriend Jack Gilchrist said Ms Turton was struggling to get her operation and “she had been let down”.

She had been in a lot of pain for five days and her stomach was swelling up.

“She started being really cold,” he said. “She told me that she had taken some tablets not prescribed to her which I believed to be some sort of blocker. I could see the reaction it was doing to her.”

He last saw her around 5am or 6am: “I woke up and she wasn’t next to me. I shouted to her and there was no answer.

“I went into the kitchen and that’s when I found her.”

He rang for an ambulance and was talked through trying to resuscitate her, without success. Paramaedics arrived and also attempted CPR.

Coroner Prof Paul Marks said there was no evidence “whatsoever” that Ms Turton had taken her life. She may have increased her intake of medication to ease her pain.

The morphine may have magnified the effect of other prescription drugs she was taking. He said the operation had to be performed in an accredited centre and Hull was not one.

He said: “The most logical evidence is that Joanne Turton died as a result of an accident.”