I FEEL CHEATED
A GRIEVING husband whose wife is one of the 17 women, who lost their lives in the cervical cancer scandal told the Irish Mail on Sunday yesterday that he can’t visit her grave because he feels she has been cheated of life.
Paul Reck, 48, was told last Friday, May 4, that his wife Catherine was wrongly informed that her smear test did not show striking irregularities – resulting in a painful battle with cervical cancer before her death on April 13, 2012.
The mother-of-three was 48 years old when she died – just two days after she learned she was to be a grandmother for the first time.
She was initially told that the smear she had in November 2010 had reported lowgrade abnormalities. However, her family has recently learned that this test showed severe abnormalities.
These revelations have ‘changed everything’ for the Reck family and the questions they have had for years around the circumstances of Catherine’s death now make sense. On Friday night, her family released a harrowing statement, right, revealing the process by which families are finally being informed about their loved ones’ missed diagnoses – and how they are seeking accountability.
Paul told the MoS yesterday: ‘We’ve been pushed deeper into the grief we were in before. When you’re doing something you
‘What could have been now is what should have been’
think, “Catherine would have enjoyed this,” and now we’ll think, “Catherine should have been here to enjoy this.”
‘It’s a case of what could have been is now what should have been.
‘As a husband, you’re going to think to yourself, “Should I have done this? Could I have known this?” But I’m not a doctor and you put your faith in the doctors. But looking back it makes a lot of sense now as to what was going on.’
Paul and his two eldest children, Grace, 30, and Thomas, 24, attended an appointment in Tallaght Hospital on Thursday to find out what had happened to Catherine – but were left shocked by the staff’s treatment, outlined in their statement.
‘Eventually the person showed up and we were brought into a room with stirrups to the left of me. I couldn’t believe it. The doctor told us she was very surprised that Catherine had not been referred to the hospital before August 2011.’
The most shocking revelation for the family was that staff in the hospital knew about Catherine’s misdiagnosis in 2016 when CervicalCheck issued them a letter.
The letter, seen by Paul, had a handwritten note from a member of staff, which read, “Contact GP to see if patient is still alive”. Underneath that the date of Catherine’s death is written. ‘They chose not to tell us and, when I asked why, the doctor said they were instructed to file it. I asked when they investigated to see if Catherine was still alive and she said, “Sometime around then.” It was very blasé, the way it was said.
‘They said they were instructed not to tell us but the letter did not say that. It said they were to use their discretion, so they decided not to tell us and bury it and hope that it would never surface.
‘She said that, looking back, maybe they should have told us. I told her, “You put yourselves above God as to whether you would inform patients or their families about what really happened. You had a medical obligation and moral obligation to tell families what really happened and you chose not to’.
When asked to comment on the Reck family’s treatment in Tallaght hospital, a spokeswoman said: ‘Tallaght University Hospital wishes to apologise to Catherine Reck’s husband Paul and his family for the distress they experienced in revisiting the hospital. The feedback from the family regarding their recent visit has been taken on board.’
Grace has previously written about her heartbreak over her mother’s death in a blog post that received national media attention in 2016. In the post, Grace detailed her devastation at losing Catherine as she was just venturing into motherhood herself, having just found out she was pregnant a day before her mother slipped into a coma and passed away.
‘For nearly every second of [my pregnancy] I would have given anything for her to be there by my side. I had people to mind me… but sometimes you just need your mam.’
When asked what Catherine was like and what he remembered of their 25-year marriage, Paul said: ‘Catherine was a brilliant person, a brilliant mother and such a strong person, a lot stronger than I’d ever thought I’d be.
‘The last thing you would expect is to see her paralysed, needing around-the-clock care. To look back and know it could have been prevented just changes everything.’
Paul said this has hugely impacted his family and their ability to grieve: ‘I can’t go to her grave because I feel like she’s been cheated. I feel like we as a family have been cheated. Our two grandchildren have been cheated out of so much.
Now Paul intends to gather as much information as possible, so that those who failed to notify the family can be ‘held to account’. ‘Morally this has to sit very uneasy with all these people who knew,’ he added.
When asked if he thinks it’s possible to compensate the families who have lost mothers, sisters and daughters, he said: ‘A financial apology won’t change anything. It won’t bring Catherine back.
‘If those who are involved are made accountable and it never happens to anyone else I suppose that would be a good outcome knowing other families don’t have to suffer.’
‘They decided not to tell us, just bury it instead’