Barbara Graham
Barbara Graham

Operation was a nightmare

HELEN JACK BARBARA GRAHAM is traumatised after a biopsy to test lumps in her breast went horribly wrong.

Anxious before the operation, the Tatham woman underwent day surgery at Lismore Base Hospital on Monday, but a local anaesthetic to deaden the pain of the surgery had no effect, she said. After the procedure it was discovered a swab was left inside the 15-centimetre incision in Ms Graham's breast. The swab was removed and the wound restitched.

Lismore Base Hospital has apologised for the anxiety Ms Graham endured and an investigation is under way. Ms Graham said throughout the procedure she was letting staff know she was in pain. "I was telling them all the way through the operation I was feeling it," Ms Graham said. "I told them and the anaesthetist kept saying 'you can't be, I've given you double'. "And then they had to go back in because they left a swab in there. It was like a nightmare," she said.

Ms Graham said she met with an anaesthetist before the procedure.

"I explained I had a problem with anaesthetic," she said. She also explained she was an asthmatic, a diabetic and had chronic fatigue and explained she was traumatised during an operation at another hospital eight years ago. However, she was later told the anaesthetist she met was not the one who would be present during her procedure.

"I trusted this time it would not happen again," she said. "I can't explain how powerless you feel when you tell them you are feeling it and medical science says you should not and they are trying to talk you out of it. "And I could still be facing extensive breast surgery, I do not know. "It's a basic human right to be treated with dignity and respect, whether you're big or small, tall or thin. "We are not living in the dark ages and I think to be knocked on the head and have the operation would have been far kinder," she said.

Lismore Base Hospital executive officer Dan Madden said surgical staff were aware Ms Graham had problems with the procedure. "The anaesthetist advised that due to her medical condition and related safety factors she would be given a local anaesthetic rather than general anaesthesia," he said. "Appropriate sedation and pain relief were provided and monitored by medical staff throughout the procedure. "Ms Graham asked for additional pain relief and this was given. "A swab was unaccounted for and this was discussed with Ms Graham. "The swab was removed without any adverse clincial consequence," he said.

Mr Madden said the hospital was sorry for any anxiety Ms Graham may have experienced as a result of the surgical procedure. "We are very aware of the patient's concerns and an investigation of the care provided is currently being undertaken."



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