By Charlotte Nisbet
It’s a game of hide and seek – this shocking scan picture shows an unborn baby hiding underneath a rugby sized cyst in her mum’s womb.
Francesca Tomlinson, 26, from Manchester, was looking forward to meeting her unborn baby at the 12 week pregnancy scan but she was hiding under a huge ovarian cyst.
All she could see on the scan photo was her baby’s hand – but despite the cyst being monitored by doctors, it began ravaging her insides and almost doubled in size.
Unable to breathe, the cyst was pressing on her diaphragm, twisting and eating away at her ovary.
It was finally removed when Francesca was 16 weeks pregnant weighing 8lbs 9oz.
And one week later, their baby girl, who they named, Gracie, could finally be seen on their next scan by her parents, Francesca and David Atherton, 27.
Following Francesca’s successful birth in 2013, her lawyers alleged the hospital should have managed the cyst and should have been drained at an earlier date.
The hospital trust later agreed to pay out £15,000.
Francesca, who works at a hotel, said: “My cyst was detected on my first scan but I was told it would just need to be monitored.
“I could barely see our baby Gracie on the scan, she was being hidden by the tumour, we could only just about see her hand at the bottom.
“She was being crushed by the cyst as it was lying directly above her to the right.
“There was no room for her to grow and it after being left in agony as the cyst started to leak and twist, it was removed.
“Gracie and the cyst were both growing in my womb but the cyst left me looking eight months pregnant when I was just a few weeks.
“The surgery left my stomach with a huge scar running down from my belly button.
“I was devastated it was allowed to grow to such a huge size, and despite the hospital trust paying a settlement of £15,000, I never received an apology.”
Francesca’s cyst weighed 8lbs 9oz – three pounds heavier than baby Gracie – when it was removed.
It had twisted around her ovary twice, crushing her diaphragm and moved her bowels out of place.
Francesca added: “Gracie looked like she was hiding on the scan picture but she was actually being crushed by it.
“There was no way the cyst and Gracie could grow and if it hadn’t of been removed, it could have been fatal.
“Doctors were monitoring the cyst for two months before it grew to the size of a rugby ball, I just wish they’d moved it a lot sooner.”
Following a legal case against it through medical negligence specialists Hudgell Solicitors, Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs St Mary’s Hospital where Francesca was under care, has now agreed to the damages settlement.
Francesca added: “I was pregnant with my first child Gracie and I trusted specialists to manage the cyst properly after it had first been spotted.
“The cyst had first been spotted at a scan, with a sonographer describing it as ‘very large’ and measuring approximately 18cm at the time.
“I was often in really bad pain, but when I went to the hospital I was just given painkillers and sent away, so much so that I stopped going in after a while because I knew I’d just be sent home.
“I could hardly breathe and my first thoughts were that I was going to lose my baby.
“When I got there and saw the consultant he said there was no need to scan me and that he could tell I needed an operation immediately.
“They couldn’t understand why the cyst hadn’t been drained, and even then they couldn’t find details of it in my medical notes.
“After the operation I was just relieved to know that my baby was unharmed, and thankfully she was born healthy, even though she was six weeks premature when she arrived.”
Her baby was unharmed and the cyst was found not to have any cancerous cells.
But Francesca had to have her right ovary and Fallopian tube removed after the operation, and with her other ovary having been pulled by the cyst, she and her partner David warned she may not be able to have more children.
However, six months later she fell pregnant again, and three-year-old Gracie-Jane soon had a sister, Amelia-Rose, now aged two-and-a-half.
Francesca added: “I was over the moon when I feel pregnant again but I was terrified something would go wrong after what I’d gone through with Gracie.”
Now, Francesca is trying to move on with her life and is sharing her story to raise awareness for the dangers cysts pose while pregnant.
Richard Beschizza, Litigation Assistant at Hudgell Solicitors, said: “This was shocking treatment and a complete failure to treat our client in the appropriate way.
“It ended with her being rushed into hospital for an emergency operation which was completely avoidable.
“A clear plan to manage the cyst should have been put in place from the very onset after it was first discovered.
“Our client was also given the understanding that an operation would take place at 16 weeks of pregnancy, but was then told at an assessment that she’d have to wait until 20 weeks, which she was not happy with.
“Three days later she woke at 4am in extreme pain, lower down her stomach than usual, and struggling to get her breath. She was rushed to hospital and an operation to remove the cyst was finally performed.
“We are glad that the Trust has now offered this damages settlement, which Francesca has accepted but I am sure she would also have liked an apology for what she went through.”