Enable Law supports family of woman who died of rare heart condition

3 minute read

The family of Sharon Goddard, a 53 -year-old woman from Bristol who died on 19 December 2022, has called for greater awareness of Loeys-Dietz Syndrome to protect others with the condition.

The call comes following a Coroner’s inquest which found that Sharon, who suffered from the condition, died from natural causes contributed to by neglect, as a consequence of a failure to recognise and treat her Aortic Dissection in time.

That neglect finding was as a result of failures by Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust  to provide and procure basic medical attention in a timely manner. The failures were partly systemic and partly operational and had a cumulative effect.

Unbeknown to Sharon and her family, Sharon’s last memories were made in the Caribbean with her loved ones. It was a special, long-awaited holiday celebrating twenty-five years of marriage to her devoted husband Neale, as well as their joint 50th birthdays. She first experienced chest pains as the plane landed home.

The Coroner heard evidence that at various stages in Sharon’s medical care those treating her failed to ask the right questions and to recognise the severity of her condition. She should have been seen within an hour of arriving at the Emergency Department and on her way to a specialist centre for cardiothoracic surgery within four hours of arriving at the Emergency Department. In fact she was there for more than 12 hours before being transferred for urgent surgery prior to which she died.

Sharon’s family believe that the initial decision made by the paramedic set in train a series of delays that  cost Sharon her life. The care that followed was unacceptable and not appropriate for her condition as she needed emergency cardiac specialist treatment.  Following Sharon’s diagnosis from the CT scan, which revealed she needed emergency heart surgery, it took six hours to get her to the operating table, in addition to the 10 hours prior to this that she was waiting for the diagnosis. This prevented the surgeons from providing Sharon with the lifesaving treatment she so desperately required.

Jackie Linehan, Medical Negligence and Inquest Solicitor at Enable Law that has been representing the family said: “Sharon’s loss was a complete tragedy.  There were multiple missed opportunities. If her condition had been recognised and addressed on time things very likely would have been different and she would be here with us. Systemic delays played an equal part to lack of recognition of her condition.”

Hannah Goddard, Sharon’s eldest daughter, said: “Mum had a smile that could light up any room. She proudly and passionately worked for the NHS for over 30 years and loved her job as a senior medical secretary at BUPA, Southmead, and Bristol Children’s Hospital. Knowing that she lost her life due to the failure of the NHS and medical staff responsible for her care is unbelievably heart breaking.

“Mum had a rare condition called Loeys-Dietz syndrome (LDS) – a genetic disorder that affects connective tissue. There are many symptoms, but the ones that carry the highest risk are related to the cardiovascular system. LDS can cause enlargement of the aorta which can lead to aortic aneurysm or dissection. Aortic dissection (AD) occurs when there is a tear in the inner layer of the aorta causing the layers to split. AD is a life-threatening condition which, if not diagnosed via a CT scan and treated promptly, can be fatal. We want to stress the importance of educating people, particularly in the medical field, about Loeys-Dietz Syndrome and Aortic Dissection, so that a repeat can be avoided in the future. There are many tests available to aid diagnosis of LDS and you can be referred for genetic testing and counselling from your GP. We urge everyone to visit the Think Aorta education campaign webpages Think Aorta | Aortic Dissection Campaign which aims to save lives.”

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