'A&E sit-in May just have saved my life', says mum
A young mother believes she may have saved her own life by refusing to leave a hospital emergency department.
Caroline Sherwin held a sit-in protest at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda when told to go home by staff.
She was frightened she had cancer and demanded to be seen by a specialist. She ended up receiving surgery the next morning.
The mother of 11-year-old twin girls had already been waiting for months to find out if lumps in her body were malignant. She had been told she would have to wait a further three months for an appointment with a specialist.
One of the growing lumps was in a lymph node.
Ms Sherwin said she had reason to worry as four close female relatives had died of cancer in their 30s and 40s.
The surgeon who examined her after her 13-hour sit-in removed the node only hours later.
Ms Sherwin (37), a hairdresser, from Donacarney, Co Meath, went to the emergency department at Our Lady Of Lourdes last Thursday.
"I'd been told I couldn't be seen for another three months. The reality is, I might not have been here in three months," she said.
An RCSI Hospital Group spokeswoman said: "We do not comment on individual cases. All patients are treated dependent on clinical need.
"Clinical need is assessed and reassessed as required. This can occur in the out-patient department or the emergency department."
Ms Sherwin got severe head pains last October and ended up staying four weeks in hospital.
'I had four lumps, three smaller ones on my neck and a large one on a lymph node which tests showed was severely inflamed," she said.
'They did a biopsy and sent me home with a prescription for heavy-duty pain killers.
"After three weeks, most of which I spent fretting about the likelihood of having cancer, I was told the biopsy had been unsuccessful and would have to be done again.
"First I was told I was being placed on a priority list to be seen by a specialist, but because of the Christmas holiday period the quickest appointment I could get was early January."
Ms Sherwin contacted the hospital in January and was stunned to be told that her "priority" appointment had been downgraded to "standard" and was slotted for February 1.
After another agonising month-long wait she was told that more lumps had developed and she should have another biopsy.
After three weeks of enquiring, she was told last week that it would be another three months before she would be seen by a specialist.
"That was the straw that broke the camel's back," she said. "Last Thursday I went into A&E, sat down on a chair and told them I was not leaving until I was properly diagnosed.
"After a few hours, in which a doctor did come and speak to me, I was moved from A&E to the Acute Assessment Unit. A different doctor examined the three smaller lumps and told me I would be put on a waiting list to see a specialist.
"I made it very clear I wasn't leaving the hospital until this was sorted."
Ms Sherwin was told to go home as there were no beds available.
"I told them that the big lump on my lymph node had not been looked at and I wasn't budging until it was," she said.
"At that stage I was in tears. The tears just kept flowing out of me in pure anger and frustration."
Finally, she was told that a surgeon would see her in 30 minutes' time.
"Fair play. That man did come and see me and, having both read my file and examined me, told those who were trying to shoo me out of the place that I had to be kept in as I needed immediate surgery on the lymph node," she said.
"He actually said that I had been waiting that long that doing a biopsy was pointless. The lump had to be removed.
"I certainly don't regret what I did. I maybe would not have been around in three months' time for that biopsy.
"I felt like nobody was giving me the answers I needed. Instead, they just kept moving me along, and still I'm left not knowing if the lumps are benign or malignant."
Ms Sherwin will find that out at another appointment on March 27.
"I'm 37 with beautiful twin daughters trying to do the best I can, but I don't want to tell them months down the line, 'Sorry girls, they didn't get to me on time'.
"I'd advise anyone in the same position to do exactly what I've done."