Hospital ‘sorry’ for cancer error

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HOSPITAL bosses have extended an “unreserved apology” to a St Helens patient after she contracted cancer from a donated kidney.

Mother-of-two Gillian Smart, 46, a diabetic for 30 years, was delighted to undergo a life-saving kidney transplant at Royal Liverpool Hospital 16 months ago.

But, just days after the surgery took place, medics discovered that Mrs Smart’s donor, a deceased woman, had intravascular B-cell lymphoma.

Mrs Smart subsequently had to endure six gruelling sessions of chemotherapy after a biopsy of the transplanted kidneys revealed the same lymphoma, a cancer which affects the immune system.

She said: “I felt devastated to learn that I had received a kidney infected with cancer. The result has been psychologically and physically draining.”

Despite being told her elder sister was an “incredibly close match” for a transplant, following a period of dialysis Mrs Smart was called in by surgeons to receive an organ from the deceased donor.

Four days later she was given the shattering news that the donor had lymphoma.

Thankfully, Mrs Smart’s sessions of chemotherapy have now been completed and tests show she is cancer-free, but she said the fear of a return of the disease remains.

Another transplant patient, Robert Law, 59, of Wirral, accepted the same donor’s other kidney in an operation on the same day as Mrs Smart - November 26, 2010.

He subsequently had to endure the same post-op chemotherapy treatment, and is now also in remission.

Lynda Hamlyn, chief executive of NHS Blood and Transplant, said the cause of the mistake was “human error”.

She said: “On behalf of NHSBT, I offer our sincere and unreserved apologies to the patients for the fact that each received a donated kidney that would have been rejected by their surgeon if he had been aware of the complete donor information.

“I do not underestimate how traumatic this has been for those involved, but lessons have been learned through an extensive investigation and a number of changes to working practices have been implemented to help prevent any such event happening again.”