Family’s heartbreak over tragic deaths of ‘king and queen of Kirdford’

Theresa Clarke has written a book about the tragic deaths of her parents
Theresa Clarke has written a book about the tragic deaths of her parents

A heartbroken family have finally ended a four year battle over events which led to the tragic deaths of their parents.

Theresa Clarke and her two brothers and sister have reached a settlement with hospital chiefs after their mum Alice Fuller died following a heart complaint - and their dad Reg ‘died of a broken heart’ 10 months later.

Alice and Reg Fuller SUS-180628-143327001

Alice and Reg Fuller SUS-180628-143327001

Alice and Reg - dubbed by daughter Theresa as ‘the king and queen of Kirdford’ - died in 2013, but their family’s grief remains raw. “I am still suffering from disbelief and grief that will remain with me until the day I die,” said Theresa, 55, from Fittleworth.

Her mum Alice, 83, died in September 2013 at London Bridge Hospital following heart surgery that her family say should have been carried out three months’ earlier when she was first admitted to St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester.

A settlement has now been reached between the family and Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, together with an agreement to pay costs,

Theresa, who has written a book about the family’s ordeal, says that her mum was a ‘fun-loving and lively 83-year-old’ when she became suddenly unwell in June 2013 and was admitted to St Richard’s where she was found to have a severely leaking heart valve.

However, Theresa maintains that the family was not told that her condition was ‘severe’ but was told she would be placed on a list for surgical assessment at Southampton General Hospital.

It was the beginning, says Theresa, of a harrowing three-month ordeal and wait for surgery during which time Alice’s condition deteriorated. Theresa believes her mum suffered a range of ‘avoidable problems’. By July she had difficulty eating and suffered weight loss. And by August, says Theresa, her mum had become confused and disorientated and suffered an undiagnosed urine infection.

She was finally transferred to Southampton Hospital on August 9 but, says Theresa, was moved to Midhurst Cottage Hospital on September 3 - then sent back to St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester the following day where her devastated family were told she was dying.

But Alice started eating again and her delirium ceased, said Theresa. In utter despair, the family trawled the internet for heart surgeons who would be prepared to reassess Alice. She was eventually admitted to the privately-run London Bridge Hospital where she finally underwent surgery, but died 10 days later. “Tragically it was three months too late,” said Theresa.

Alice’s husband Reg “lost all interest in life the day he lost his wife and he passed away 10 months later with a broken heart,” said Theresa.

She said all her parents’ savings had been used to pay for the surgery.

Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust medical director Dr Timothy Taylor said:“We offer our sincere condolences to the family of Mrs Alice Fuller and hope the conclusion of this legal case provides some comfort for them at this difficult time.

“We regret how long it has taken to reach an agreement, but the clinical decisions relating to Mrs Fuller’s illness and death five years ago were complex and there was a difference of opinion on the appropriateness of surgery given Mrs Fuller’s age and unstable condition.

“Although following receipt of independent expert evidence, we do not accept the care provided was negligent, we did reach a mutually agreeable settlement following a meeting with the family in March which brought the legal case to a close.”