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A father of two young boys, Sherwin (28) was originally from Bermuda and lived in Leeds with his partner, La’Troya and their baby son (just eight months old). His other son lives in Bermuda with his former partner.
A few days before the COVID-19 lockdown began on 23 March, Sherwin went to Leeds General Infirmary and the city’s St. James’ Hospital with chronic pain in his right leg, the right side of his buttock, and a hard lump in his rectum. Initially, he was referred to a sexual health clinic, but multiple blood tests confirmed he did not have a sexually transmitted disease.
Another doctor then misdiagnosed his condition as prostatitis, in which the prostate gland becomes inflamed. But Sherwin instinctively knew the chronic pain he was suffering and the hard, golf ball-like lump in his rectum was not prostate-related.
He was seen by three different urologists between April and May and repeatedly asked them for an MRI scan, but no one would scan him. Doctors continued to insist that his lump was either protruding tissue or a prostate problem and he was prescribed a four-week course of antibiotics.
Sherwin explained at the time:
“I didn’t believe them. I did my own research and knew it was something else. I kept begging them in April and May to give me an MRI scan, but no one would listen. Both my GP and my consultant told me that I couldn’t get one because scanning services were slowed down because of the coronavirus.”
By this time, Sherwin’s pain had become excruciating and at one particularly low point, he felt so unwell and so exhausted, that he was almost suicidal.
He was then referred to a fourth urologist who said the diagnosis of prostatitis was “ludicrous” and diagnosed him with an abscess. Within two hours, he had Sherwin booked into theatre to drain the abscess, however, there was still no MRI scan.
Five days after his surgical procedure, Sherwin was still in agonising pain and losing muscle mass and power in his right leg.
After 13 visits to hospital in four weeks and after pleading with doctors for nearly two months to be given a scan, Sherwin finally had an MRI on 26 May 2020. The scan revealed the shocking truth – Sherwin had a large, round cell sarcoma (a malignant tumour) measuring 14cm in his pelvis and 30 small tumours in his lungs. Doctors told him his cancer was particularly aggressive and fast-growing.
Following his scan, his oncologist admitted that if they had diagnosed his cancer months’ back, his prognosis would have been better. He was eventually told his cancer was terminal and there was nothing more doctors could do.
Tragically, Sherwin died on 3 December 2020, just a week after he married his partner La’Troya in a quiet ceremony at home.
Before his death, he bravely spoke to BBC Yorkshire and Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio Two to tell his story and raise awareness of the issue.
Sherwin told The Guardian: “I’m fighting for my life because I didn’t have a scan. I should have had the scan months earlier but did not because normal NHS care was suspended because of the coronavirus.
Credit: BBC Yorkshire
“I’m angry, frustrated and disappointed. And I’m devastated that I might lose my life to cancer that could have been cured if they had done what they were supposed to do [more quickly].”
Click here to listen to Sherwin talk movingly about his tragic story in the excellent Guardian podcast ‘How cancer was side-lined in the fight against COVID-19’.
La’Troya is being supported by our specialist medical negligence lawyer and patient safety expert Mary Smith, who says:
“This is a truly shocking and tragic case involving a young father who instinctively knew he was seriously unwell but was continually fobbed off and repeatedly refused an MRI scan. Sherwin made 13 increasingly desperate trips to A&E in four weeks, but no one would listen to him.
“The fact that he waited over two months for a scan meant that by the time he finally had an MRI and received an accurate diagnosis, his cancer had become more advanced and spread to his lungs.
“Cancer does not care if there is a global pandemic. It is vital that patients have access to the urgent diagnostics and treatment they need. Seriously unwell patients should never have to beg for scans.
“The priority now is to find out what happened in Sherwin’s case and to work with the hospital involved to really understand what went wrong. Sherwin’s overriding concern was always that whatever went wrong for him does not happen to anyone else. Clearly, urgent change is needed in the healthcare sector to improve patient safety, save lives and prevent tragedies like this from happening to others.”