Personal Stories: Ann Skelton's Story by husband Martin


I am about to describe a series of events which result in a tragic misdiagnosis of my wife’s condition, resulting in her death.

On the evening of Tuesday February 13th 2007, my wife collapsed on the stairs with a severe pain in one of her legs. At the time she was talking to her friend on the telephone whilst sitting on the stairs.

I heard her moans from the kitchen and found her in extreme agony, deathly white and sweating profusely.

I helped her to the living room and called for an ambulance. Within a short period of time both paramedic and ambulance personnel were with us.

They spent some time trying to assess the situation and trying to stabilise my wife. She was given morphine for the pain in her leg.

After some considerable time she was taken to Queen Alexandra hospital. Unfortunately it was during the rush hour period and it took forever. Whoever who made the crass decision about the closure of the local Accident & Emergency department at the Haslar hospital should sit in an ambulance with their wife in a seemingly critical condition making their way to QA in the rush hour.

Once arrived at QA there is a queue in the corridor and all the ambulance personnel waiting with their patients are openly scathing about the queuing and the Haslar situation.

My wife was finally taken to a cubicle to be seen by a doctor. At this time my wife not only had a pain in her leg but also in her abdomen and lower back. She also mentioned a sore throat. She was struggling with her speech. The doctor gave her an examination and asked various questions. She seemed to be considering that there may have been a stroke and asked if there was any family history. I replied by saying that the only family history was the death of her father at an early age with a ‘torn’ aorta (not knowing the technical term at this time).

Ultimately the doctor stated that she thought my wife had had a TIA and that she could go home and for her GP to follow up the TIA. My family and I were somewhat taken aback that she was not to be kept in for observation.

That night my wife was in considerable discomfort with pain in her abdomen, back and leg. She also had what seemed to be a sore throat.

Coincidentally my wife had an appointment with her GP the next day and I took her with my daughter to see the doctor. She had to be helped into the doctor’s room by both my daughter and myself as she was still having a problem with her leg. Her GP was somewhat surprised to see my wife in such a state as he thought she was there for a routine appointment about her cholesterol. He gave her a long examination and stated that she had not had a TIA and probably had a virus as she had been sick overnight.

We took my wife home and she went to bed as she felt so unwell. The following day (15th) she still felt unwell and on this day she stated the pain in her abdomen was worse than having a baby and I telephoned the doctor and he prescribed soluble paracetamol.

My wife continued to be unwell with the pains in her abdomen and back but we assumed this was due to the virus. For several nights I had slept in one bedroom and my wife in another as she didn’t want to disturb me as she was restless.

On the morning of the 17th I went into see my wife and she had passed away.

The morning of my worst nightmare I started to have chest pains. I was concerned as I have a coronary problem. I telephoned for a doctor. These days in the UK you do not have access to your own doctor at weekends. The weekend doctor asked me to attend his clinic and I refused as my wife had just died. How sympathetic is this? Finally a doctor attended. Before seeing to me the doctor asked me about what had happened with my wife and he stated that she should have been kept in hospital.

The autopsy revealed that my wife had died of a Type A aortic dissection, This being exactly the same condition that her father died of when he was 46. My wife was 58. I had told the A&E doctor of the condition that my wife was suffering with. Why oh why did she not listen?           

My family and I are obviously distraught. We are very disturbed that there has been a serious misdiagnosis of my wife’s condition and that the family information that I provided along with the abdominal, lower back and throat pain symptoms were ignored.

Yesteryear my wife would have certainly been taken in for observation. Today there clearly is pressure for beds and turnaround of cases.

Had she been taken in for observation as one doctor said she should have been, had the key information been analysed correctly, had she been scanned, my wife would have had an 85% chance of survival. In sending her home she had NO chance.

In my opinion this is as serious as it gets. Misdiagnosis resulting in death.

The one positive to come out of this nightmare is that we now know that aortic dissection can be hereditary. My children have now been scanned and will continue to be so as will my grandson.

I have been through the United Kingdom National Health Trust Complaints Process. I have received an apology and I am now taking legal action.

Apart from the apology which I asked for there was a demand that the NHS review their diagnosis procedures for cases such as my wife’s. The response was that nothing could be done. Just as nothing was done for my wife. Why will the NHS not learn from such a tragedy?

For all those families out there whose family members have died of an aortic dissection please be aware that it may well be hereditary and your family needs scanning immediately.       

Update to Ann’s Story

11th October 2007

Yesterday I gave an interview to the British Broadcasting Corporation’s South Today regional health correspondent regarding my wife’s story.

Today the news story was shown in the south of England several times throughout the day. 

The main purpose of the story was to raise awareness of the aortic dissection condition both with medical personnel and the public.

The National Health Trust which is responsible for the hospital where my wife was taken to Accident and Emergency made a statement which stated that my wife’s case has been and will continue to be emphasised in teaching within the Emergency department.

This statement is very welcome and is one which I had been seeking.

Here's the link to the BBC news footage:

Concerns over heart condition

The husband of a Hampshire woman who died of a rare heart condition, is calling for greater awareness of the illness by hospital staff.


Martin's connections with Ann in the afterlife: Read this!


Contact Martin


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