A Lanarkshire student has died just 13 days after being diagnosed with bowel cancer, leaving his devastated family furious at the ‘lack of careless care’.
Ryan Brown, 23, had to break the news to his parents via Facetime while they were on vacation.
His twin sister Hope was with him when he was diagnosed with stage four cancer and has since said he should have been diagnosed much earlier.
The 23-year-old had suffered from ulcerative colitis since he was 12 and, according to his family, should have had more regular tests because people with the inflammatory disease are at increased risk of developing cancer.
Ryan, who was just weeks away from graduating from college, was diagnosed on May 1 at Wishaw General Hospital after doctors found a 15x12cm mass in his intestine with further evidence of disease in his liver and lymph nodes, after vomiting feces.
The Daily Record reports that grieving sister Hope, from Harthill, has now spoken out in a bid to raise awareness of ulcerative colitis while calling Ryan’s lack of testing ‘utter negligence’.
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She said: “We want answers. We want to know why Ryan wasn’t treated right.
“Ryan called me on May 1 asking me to go to the hospital because they wanted a family member in. Our mum and dad were actually in Tenerife at the time, so we FaceTimed them. We thought it was to discuss surgery with him, possibly to get an ostomy bag.
“So I walked in and they told us Ryan had cancer.”
Speaking about when they received the devastating diagnosis, Holly recalled: “The surgeon we spoke to totally played it down. He made it look like it was just a tiny bit of cancer, and he would suffer chemo and surgery to remove it. We didn’t think that sounded too serious.
“On May 3, his consultant came to see him and that’s when he told Ryan how serious he was. He had a 15 x 12 cm tumor in his intestine, which is huge, and he had another one on the other side of his intestine.
“It had gone through his lymph nodes and through seven sections of his liver. Obviously they couldn’t operate because it was like grains of sand going through his liver.
“We were told plans had changed and he was going to Monklands Hospital in Airdrie for chemo but they wanted to delay the operation.
“At the end of the week it then became that he was going to go to Beatson in Glasgow because they are the experts and can give him chemo there.
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Discussing Ryan’s progress, Hope continued: “On Monday the 9th my mum seemed to have some kind of sixth sense and turned to one of the nurses and said ‘Ryan is too sick to get chemo, don’t is this not? “.
“She asked if they intended to tell us one day. But basically nobody wanted to tell us because of his age and they didn’t want to upset us.
“They had to bring a Beatson doctor to Glasgow to talk to us. She came out on the 10th and said there was nothing they could do. It was simply too late.
“On the 12th Ryan was transferred to St Andrews Hospice in Airdrie. From there it just went downhill. He was so sick and on Friday he was constantly sick.
“He died at 1am on 14 – 13 days after his diagnosis. He never even had a chance.
“My mum, who also has colitis, had two different types of bowel cancer so they should have looked it up at Ryan. Hers was caught at stage 1 and she went to the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh where they do checks every two years.
“So his was caught very quickly whereas apparently in Lanarkshire they don’t do that as often. But they should be tested every two years.
“That should be the minimum, regardless of age. Ryan’s last litter was in 2017, so he was supposed to have one this year, but it was obviously way too late.
“I just feel like it shouldn’t have happened. I’m so annoyed about it. He’s my twin brother and I lost him.”
Ryan had suffered a painful flare-up in February last year, but was unable to get an in-person appointment due to the pandemic.
He continued to suffer severe headaches and abdominal pain, which left him bent over in agony, but was prescribed steroids without further testing.
His family say that between February and April he made 17 phone calls to IBD nurses as he continued to try to get help.
In March this year, he was admitted to hospital where he spent a week receiving a steroid infusion and was discharged without a colonoscopy or a fecal sample.
He was then rushed back on April 22 after catching coronavirus and was placed in an isolation ward for seven days, but on April 30 the student began vomiting feces and was rushed to an urgent CT scan for fear that his intestine may have ruptured.
The next day, Hope was called to be by her brother’s side as doctors told her the heartbreaking news.
She believes there were several missed opportunities to diagnose her brother – who made history as part of the first set of twins born to a liver transplant patient.
Hope explained: “A close friend of mine actually has colitis and she was diagnosed when she was 17. She had the exact same consultant as Ryan. Two years later, she was told that if she didn’t get an ostomy pouch, she would end up getting bowel cancer. So why didn’t Ryan get the same treatment?
“When he was hospitalized for a week in March, why didn’t they check then? It wouldn’t have got rid of the cancer, but he might have had a few more weeks or months.
“Or when he went to the doctors last year, why didn’t they do scans or endoscopes to try and find out what was going on?
“When he was in pediatric care, he regularly provided samples for testing, but that did not happen when he was transferred.
“They even tell you that if you have had colitis for more than ten years, the risk of getting bowel cancer increases. So you would have thought that they would run regular tests to monitor and find out. It’s so frustrating. It is total negligence. »
Mum Carol Ann and dad Daryl plan to make a formal complaint to NHS Lanarkshire while sister Hope completes her honors degree in electrical and electronics engineering on her behalf.
NHS guidelines say patients with ulcerative colitis have a higher risk of developing bowel cancer – with the risk increasing over the years.
People with cancer should undergo regular examinations – colonoscopies – to check for signs of cancer about 10 years after the first symptoms appear.
The frequency of testing should increase with a patient’s lifespan with the disease – ranging from one to five years – depending on other risk factors, including family history of cancer.
Russell Coulthard, Deputy Director of Acute Services, said: “Our thoughts and condolences go out to the family on the sad passing of this young man.
“We ask the family to contact our Patient Affairs team at [email protected] to offer them the opportunity to discuss their concerns directly with us.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: ‘Our sympathies are with Mr Brown’s family.
“Our Endoscopy and Urology Diagnostics Recovery and Renewal Plan aims to increase capacity and is backed by £70m. It focuses on key areas such as balancing demand and capacity, workforce training and development, and infrastructure.
“Early diagnosis of cancer has never been more important, which is why we have committed an additional £20 million to our Cancer Early Detection (ECD) program during Parliament, which aims to raise awareness to the signs and symptoms of cancer to improve early diagnosis rates.
Scottish Labor MP Monica Lennon added: “I was saddened to hear of Ryan’s tragic passing and cannot imagine the devastation his parents, Daryl and Carol Ann, and twin sister, Hope must feel.
“With Ryan himself suffering from ulcerative colitis and having a family history of bowel cancer, I agree with his family that he should have had more regular checkups.
“I will write to both NHS Lanarkshire and Humza Yousaf, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, for an explanation of the procedures followed in cases such as Ryan’s.”
Hope raises funds for Crohns & Colitis UK in memory of her brother. To donate, go here.