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Tragedy of obese mum's gastric op; Woman's surgery went badly wrong.

Byline: By ANDREW HIRST Deputy News Editor

AN obese mother who opted for radical surgery to lose weight for the sake of her young son died from tragic complications.

Suzanne Murphy, 29, had consultations with a surgeon at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary because she felt her obesity was stopping her from doing the things she wanted to with her five-year-old son, Jacob.

She underwent the major gastric bypass surgery on October 31, 2006 - but her family were left shattered when she suffered a massive adverse reaction to the surgery and died from multiple organ failure four days later.

Suzanne, of Bentley Avenue in Lightcliffe, near Brighouse, had been given antibiotics to kill off bugs associated with that kind of surgery and it was only after she died that tests showed that she had contracted the notorious superbug MRSA.

But, after hearing detailed evidence from medical experts, coroner Paul Marks said the MRSA had not played a part in Suzanne's death.

Independent intensive care expert Dr Dominic Bell said Suzanne may have been genetically pre-disposed to have an aggressive response to the surgery which her body couldn't fight.

But her family remain deeply distressed by the tragedy.

Suzanne's sister, Linda, said: "She had put on a lot of weight over the years and felt it was stopping her doing the things she wanted to with Jacob."

In a heartrending note Suzanne left under her son's pillow before the operation, she wrote: "To my beautiful baby boy. All you have to know is mummy is doing this for you and me.

"Mummy has carried a lot of weight in my head and heart and body for as long as I can remember - I don't want my baggage to become a weight you have to carry.

"You know mummy is strong and would do anything for you - get the stars from the sky if I could - but with this problem, darling, mummy can't do it alone.

"I need a helping hand. So when the nice doctors said they could help me with getting the weight off the outside, mummy thought very long and carefully and finally said 'Yes please'."

Suzanne added she wanted to give them both a "fresh start" saying: "You are my oxygen. I love you so much I want you to have the best and happiest life I can give."

Suzanne, who weighed more than 19 stones, was put on the list for bypass surgery after speaking to surgeon Dr Brian Dobbins in June 2005 and undergoing tests showing she was no more at risk than anyone else for this kind of surgery - and her general health would benefit over the long-term.

On October 31, 2006, she had a successful stomach stapling operation which reduces the amount a person can eat and how much food is absorbed.

But the next day Dr Dobbins noticed Suzanne's pulse rate had quickened and her blood count had dropped. She was given a blood transfusion, but it had little effect.

Suzanne was taken to theatre for an exploratory operation 24 hours after her surgery, but medics mysteriously could find little wrong except for a small leak from the operation wound which was considered normal.

Dr Dobbins, who has now performed around 50 bypass operations, said: "I personally expected Suzanne to turn a corner at this point. I felt there was nothing untoward."

Medics believed she was having a septic reaction, but a further operation didn't find any source of her continuing illness. MRSA was checked for on November 4 - which came back positive after she died that day in the hospital's intensive care unit.

She died when her organs began to fail and a post-mortem - although not conclusive - said she died of toxic shock and MRSA was found.

But microbiologist Dr David Birkenhead said: "I am not convinced MRSA was the cause of her septic picture, more likely it was one of the other organisms in the body."

Dr Bell, who prepared an independent report for the hearing, said it was more likely that she was a luckless victim of 'systemic inflammatory response syndrome' - meaning she was in a tiny percentage of the population who would have a disastrous response to surgery.

He said: "It is my view that a combination of factors triggered an inflammatory response, amplified by her genetic condition and contributed to by her morbid obesity."

He likened it to university halls of residence where only one student gets struck down with an infection such as meningitis while the rest do not.

"We can't separate out beforehand which of those patients are going to go down that pathway," said Dr Bell. "All we know is a certain portion of the population do."

He said the surgery, the leak she suffered, the blood transfusion, further surgery and an infection of her wound all contributed to the devastating reaction she suffered.

He found that the doctors and surgeons did everything they could to save Suzanne and that she died from unforeseen complications from the surgery.

Recording a verdict of misadventure coroner Paul Marks said: "MRSA was not relevant on the balance of probabilities to her death."

He took Dr Bell's view that the response was her cause of death, brought on by the bypass surgery and her morbid obesity.

CAPTION(S):

TRAGEDY: Suzanne Murphy left a moving letter for her son Jacob explaining why she was having surgery. Inset: How Suzanne looked before she became overweight
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Jun 26, 2008
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