Complications that led to patient’s death unknown

Doctors who cared for Lisa Turner in the days before her death have told how she suffered “overwhelming sepsis” which they believed could be related to a recent surgery.

In a series of statements read out at an inquest Wednesday, various doctors, nurses and health service officials from both the Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial Hospital (now CTMH Doctors Hospital) and the Cayman Islands Hospital recounted the treatment she received.

An autopsy report, already given in evidence, concluded the cause of Ms. Turner’s death on Feb. 14 was complications due to surgery.

RELATED STORY: Patient died after complications from surgery 

But the exact nature of those complications remains unclear.

Doctors at the Cayman Islands Hospital, according to their statements, initially believed Ms. Turner may have suffered a “perforated bowel” during the earlier operation, leading to an infection. But the autopsy report showed no evidence that this was the case.

Coroner Eileen Nervik spelled that out in a statement to the jury.

“There is nothing in his [the pathologist’s] findings that shows any injury. There’s nothing here that shows some kind of injury to create this sepsis,” she said.

Medical staff involved in the initial surgery at Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial Hospital to remove a cyst from an ovary, testified that it had gone smoothly with no complications.

“Everything went according to plan and eventually the procedure finished and the patient was transferred to a recovery room in a stable condition,” according to a statement from Gina Lapena, one of the nurses involved in the surgery.

Dr. Suzanne Muise, the surgeon who carried out the operation, had earlier testified that Ms. Turner’s surgery had gone well and that she was able to be discharged the same day, Feb. 10.

Several witnesses described how the patient developed a fever and abdominal pain over the weekend and was readmitted to the Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial Hospital on Sunday evening before being transferred to the Cayman Islands Hospital after experiencing breathing difficulties. Tests showed the platelet count in her blood was critically low.

Dr. Gillian Evans-Belfonte, the consultant gynecologist at the Health Services Authority, said in a statement read to the Coroner’s Court that the working diagnosis of the medical team at the Cayman Islands Hospital was that Ms. Turner was suffering an overwhelming sepsis – a life-threatening complication stemming from an infection. The sepsis had led to multiple organ failure and a condition called disseminated intravascular coagulation, which involves the formation of small clots throughout the blood system, she indicated.

She said the platelet count in the patient’s blood was too low for doctors to operate safely and they decided she would be transferred to Florida, where she could receive a transfusion.

An air ambulance arrived Monday afternoon, but Ms. Turner suffered a cardiac arrest before she could be transported overseas and was readmitted to the critical care unit at the Cayman Islands Hospital.

At that point, Dr. Evans-Belfonte said her condition had deteriorated to such an extent that even with the necessary platelets for transfusion, which they had not been able to obtain at that point, it would have been impossible to do anything for her.

She said she received a call around 5 a.m. the next day from a doctor in the emergency room that Ms. Turner had suffered another cardiac arrest and resuscitation had been unsuccessful.

Friends of Ms. Turner earlier described how her condition worsened in the days after the cystectomy at Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial Hospital.

Sandra Wilkinson described making regular checks on her friend over the weekend. When she called her on Sunday evening, Ms. Turner told her she was in terrible pain.

She said she had found her lying on the floor at the foot of the bed, curled around her pillow, suffering from a severe fever.

She described how she and other friends had taken her to the hospital and anxiously monitored her condition in the days that followed before being told she had died in the early hours on Tuesday.

Her fiancé Alain Belanger, a police officer, said in a statement that he had been angry at the length of time it had taken for the air ambulance to arrive and to prep Ms. Turner for transfer.

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  1. Why unknown when it is known that:” One area where many patients are the victims of doctor or hospital staff error is in the area of post operative infection or sepsis. Post-operative infection is a broad term which applies to several types of infections a patient can experience as a consequence of undergoing surgery.” The quote is from google.
    She died from infection introduced by a surgery and her doctor’s inability to timely recognize it and intervene and the following chain of events where everything went wrong. One would think that a thorough review of those events that went wrong would follow, appropriate measures taken and lessons learned.
    Residents of the Cayman Islands are waiting to hear about it.