Terry Michael Clark
Karen tells the story, in her own words, of the journey that led to her dad’s diagnosis for pancreatic cancer from which he sadly passed away in November 2010.
In memory of Terence Michael Clark: 1940 – 2010
My dad, Terry, died at 17.50 on 3rd November 2010, 90 minutes after we were given his diagnosis. He died in a
wing of the hospital on the grounds of the old maternity unit where I was born on 3rd November 1964.
Dad had a bit of a medical history which we believe blinkered the doctors with his treatment prior to his death. He had his first heart attack in 1980 just after he turned 40 and by 1998 he needed a quadruple bypass. He also had a history of back trouble, he had a form if scoliosis that affected his lower back and had been treated for ulcers of the stomach on and off over the years.
He became unwell on and off for a few years with attacks of sickness and shivers that sent him to bed and after 24-48 hours he was OK. By late 2009 and early 2010 he began complaining of breathing trouble and loss of appetite. The doctors ran test, x-rays, lung capacity tests, ECGs etc and then decided it was possibly heart related and early onset emphysema.
They sent out a nurse specialist to teach him breathing exercises and because they believed his anorexia was related to his breathing they gave him nutritional supplements. By July/August his weight was dropping but the doctors still insisted the pain he said was getting worse in his back was just related to his existing scoliotic changes. He even asked me if I thought he might have cancer as I used to be a nurse, but I said the doctors have done all the tests and not found anything on Xray they should have found cancer but they hadn’t. He was always one who tanned really well in the summer so we didn’t notice any changes there either.
However by mid October he had lost almost 4 Stone and mum went with him to the doctors and demanded they do something so they referred him to a consultant who took one look and sent him to hospital for tests. He was admitted to hospital at the end of October. They did the usual tests again and thought he might have a lung infection and did a pleural tap and withdrew the fluid on his lungs. That came back with a Staph infection and started him on IV antibiotics and oxygen.
By Tuesday 2nd November he was on high oxygen levels, was confused and rambling which they attributed to his infection dehydration and poor oxygen levels. They also thought he had an aneurism in his stomach artery that once they cleared up the infection, got him eating and drinking and he put on some weight they would look at scheduling an operation to repair the aneurism.
However at 05.30 the hospital rang us to ask if we could come in as dad was very confused, he had ripped his drip out and was very fractious and they wanted us to come help calm him down. We stayed till mid-morning and he was much better so we went back home. The hospital rang us around 13.00 and asked us to come and see the consultant at 16.00 about dad’s treatments.
Mum and I were then told he had advanced pancreatic cancer that had spread to his stomach, liver, lungs and possibly to his brain and at most he had 6 to 12 weeks to live and we needed to start thinking about palliative care/hospice etc. The nurses were really kind, told us to go home make the phone calls to family and stay home the rest of the day to get our heads round things, we could have open visits on the ward and talk about care the following day.
We got back to mums house at 5pm and I rang my sister who lives 2 hours away but said not to rush up but that
dad wasn’t good. By 5.30 after making the calls I literally sat down to drink a cup of tea and the phone rang. The, Ward sister said I should call my sister back and tell her to make plans to come up straight away as he had taken a turn for the worse. We rushed over to the hospital and got there at 6pm. When we walked onto the ward one of the staff burst into tears and the ward sister met us half way to tell us he had died at 5.50.
I went straight to see him, he was being looked after by 2 nurses who were so kind to me. Dad was still warm which I know is an odd statement but I wanted to be sure he wasn’t dead when the nurse rang me and having dealt with death as a nurse knew the signs, so to say. My sister made it by 8pm.
He was just 70 years old. Mum and dad had celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary 19 days before surrounded by his children and grandchildren. He was one of a kind, stubborn, determined, adored his family, was funny sarcastic and awkward but he, was our funny loving awkward ‘Victor Meldrew’ and he is missed every single day. His grandchildren were his life, all 3 of them. They adored him.
No-one should have to go through nearly 18 months of misdiagnosis; doctors shouldn’t be so blinkered by previous ailments and patients need to be more insistent and informed about their health. We share this because, despite being a private family who don’t like attention, my mum wants others to learn from this and no family should be given 90 minutes from diagnosis to death, so this is done in memory of dad, Terence Michael Clark 29-05-1940 to 03-11-2010.