NHS staff shamed a 38-stone mother-of-four who was “terrified” to return to hospital before she died just a month after having a cesarean operation, an inquest heard.
Shelley Harlow died in the early hours of May 25 at Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (QEQM) Hospital in Margate, Kent, after suffering a blood clot following a caesarean section the previous month.
Her mother Wendy Pearson has now told an inquest that her “sweet” daughter had been “absolutely terrified” to return to hospital after being “humiliated” by NHS staff who said she she would need a “big room” and a “special”. bed’.
The 38-year-old was pronounced dead at 2.26am on May 25 last year, after undergoing five different surgeries following a Caesarean section operation in April 2022, after leaving hospital less two weeks earlier, on May 16, 2022.
Ms Harlow’s grieving mother told the inquest, via video link: “I feel like Shelley was very ashamed. She told me that the day she arrived at the hospital, she was asked “what are you doing here?”
Shelley Harlow died in the early hours of May 25 at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (QEQM) Hospital in Margate, Kent.
The mother of Shelley Harlow (pictured) said the 38-year-old was ‘humiliated’ by NHS staff.
“She told them she was coming in for a C-section and one staff member told her they would have to cancel a lot of other C-sections now because of how long hers would take,” the grieving mother said during the investigative hearing. .
“Shelley kept telling me that they hadn’t made a plan and that she was very afraid of having a C-section. I think by telling her that she would have to have a special room and a big bed because of her weight, she felt even more frightened.
“I want to make people aware that being overweight is like an addiction – it’s the same as smoking or drinking. There’s no point telling people to diet if they’re not working. I think people need to realize this.
Ms Harlow’s death came after the abducted mother was no longer taking a blood thinning drug called heparin, which she had been prescribed following a miscarriage in 2021 to prevent her from developing blood clots.
After developing sepsis following an April 2022 C-section, Ms Harlow was forced to spend several weeks in hospital without her newborn, during which time she underwent five surgeries.
In each case, doctors stopped treatment with the blood thinner heparin before Ms Harlow’s surgeries to prevent the 38-year-old from bleeding.
She was then released on May 16. However, a clerical error meant that heparin was omitted from the list of prescribed medications, we learned during the investigation.
In the early hours of May 25, 2022, just nine days after leaving hospital, Ms Harlow then stopped breathing – at which point her partner called 999 and performed CPR on her.
Air ambulances arrived and paramedics used a defibrillator before Ms Harlow was pronounced dead at 2.26am.
Coroner Sarah Clarke recorded a finding of natural causes and gave Shelley’s cause of death as massive pulmonary thromboembolism.
The 38-year-old mother weighed 38 stone and five pounds at the time of her death
Hospital staff told Shelley Harlow she would need a ‘big room’ and ‘special bed’, inquest hears
Favorable factors included her recent third trimester delivery, cesarean section, postoperative sepsis, and morbid obesity.
She said: “The care given to him during his stay in hospital was of a high standard.
“She underwent five surgeries in total and her heparin was stopped several times. The moment things could have been different was when he was released.
“I’m sure all the clinicians have thought about their involvement in Shelley’s care.
“We can’t blame Shelley for wanting to go home and be with her baby. If the information on her discharge form had been clear, she may have continued taking the heparin.
“But I have to say it wasn’t causal, because even with heparin she was still at risk and she didn’t show any symptoms until the night she died.”
“I had difficulty deciding whether to infer natural causes or provide a narrative conclusion in this case.
“Her mother described how Shelley was tormented by comments about her weight and how ashamed she felt.
“All that remains is for me to send my condolences to her mother, Wendy, and to all of Shelley’s family.”
Following the inquest, Ms Pearson said her daughter was a stay-at-home mother at the time of her death.
The “nice” mother also looked after her friend’s daughter when she had difficulty doing it herself.
Shelley Harlow’s mother said ‘being overweight is like an addiction – it’s the same as smoking or drinking’.
Ms Pearson said: “She was kind, she would do anything for anyone.
“She also had a friend who had a little girl. She would take care of her, Shelley would take the little girl around and take care of her.
“She would bathe her, wash her, make sure she was OK. She had a great sense of humor, she made people laugh, she was funny.
East Kent Hospitals Trust refused to comment on Wendy’s concerns that Shelley was being humiliated and tormented by comments from QEQM staff.
Jane Dickson, the Trust’s chief nurse, said: “Shelley’s death after the birth of her baby is devastating for her family and we would like to express our deepest condolences to her family.
“The circumstances leading to Shelley’s death were investigated immediately and thoroughly. An independent safety investigation was carried out by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB).
“We have implemented all of the recommendations made in the report and the findings of these investigations have been shared with Shelley’s family and HM Coroner.”
“We are now identifying women at risk earlier in their pregnancies to offer them personalized advice and planning on conditions that may affect their labor and delivery, as well as ensuring digital information is shared consistently with our partner organizations so that all health professions have a complete picture of women’s health.