The surgery which took just 19 minutes turned into the darkest few minutes for 15-year-old Alex's mother.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on August 20, 2020. It has since been updated.
A mother carries a child in her womb for nine months and in this duration, she creates a bond with her child so strong and unique that when it's gone, it leaves a gaping hole in her life which cannot be fixed by any material pleasure. The loss of a child shatters the mother because a piece of her is taken away. That's exactly how Angelica Stefanoaia felt when she lost her 15-year-old girl daughter in the most shocking and unexpected way possible.
Denisa Alexandra Stefanoaia aka Alex, passed away at the Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London after a simple operation went wrong. Her surgery was held to remove her four teeth so she could be fitted with a brace.
In the inquest heard at St Pancras Coroner's Court, experts revealed to coroner Mary Hassell that Alex, a resident of Watford, Hertfordshire, was "severely obese" with sleep apnoea and mild asthma. But the doctors had told her that the surgery being a normal one won't take more than an hour and she was put under general anesthetic. She was also told that the chances of Alex dying in the procedure were "less than one in 100,000," so low that the doctors didn't feel the need to inform the family, reported The Sun.
The "very straightforward" surgery, as per the surgeon, held on February 14, 2020, lasted just for 19 minutes, but in that little time, Angelica lost her "best friend," her daughter. The inquest heard that not long after the surgery, Alex was found to have bitten on the endotracheal tube by the medics. She wasn't breathing.
"I have cried every day since she died, desperate to bring her back," said Alex and continued, "I begged them on my knees to do everything they could for her and save her and they simply said she wouldn't wake up." The emotional and heartbroken mother was going through a lot of pain as she said, "When they told me she was poorly after the surgery, I never for one moment thought she would die. Please, no other family should have to go through this terrible pain."
Dr. Atheer Ujam, a senior registrar at GOSH was the one who carried out the surgery. Giving evidence remotely on Thursday, he described the procedure as "uncomplicated" but also pointed out that it was later that he noticed that something was not right with Alex, reported Belfast Telegraph.
"I stayed in the theatre to make sure the patient was stable. I finished my notes ... I went (back to the operating table) to see what was going on, that's when I saw Alex - she was blue," informed the doctor. While his colleague informed him that it was Alex's lungs that were creating a problem, Dr. Ujam saw blood coming out of her mouth.
He continued, "I began to feel for a pulse and we couldn't find one. At that point (a colleague) said we have to start CPR ... within 10 or 15 seconds there were many people coming into the theatre." The doctor said that he wouldn't do anything differently if he faces a patient similar to the 15-year-old.
Dr. Akane Iguchi, consultant anesthetist at GOSH, revealed that she got concerned when she was unable to ventilate Alex's lungs after the procedure got over. "I looked over at Alex's face and she was biting the ET (endotracheal) tube and she was becoming blue," she said. She informed the coroner that Alex's obesity would have contributed to her condition. “In her case, because of her severe obesity, her oxygen consumption is very high. All the factors combined make her very risky,” she said.
Mark Bowman, a partner at Fieldfisher who's investigating the negligence case against the hospital expressed his condolences to the family and said, "Going through an inquest investigating the death of your daughter is a horrific experience. The hope is that the family will receive some answers which will allow them to properly grieve for Alex."
According to Express & Star, the coroner dismissed any suggestions that stated neglect from the hospital's part. She said, “The part of the jigsaw I’m missing is why when Alex bit on the tube did it have such a devastating impact?"
She continued, "(Biting on the tube) is not that uncommon. It’s something seen routinely without devastating consequences. From the evidence that I have, I don’t know why this had such devastating consequences for Alex – and the clinicians treating Alex don’t know.”
The inquest continues until they find the root of the problem which took a daughter away from her mother.