Last Tuesday, March 27, marked a year since Gloria Chandler died; a year and two months since she underwent radiotherapy treatment at the Brian Lara Cancer Treatment Centre (BLCTC).
Gloria, 65, was one of 223 BLCTC patients administered with more radiation than had been prescribed. She was administered the overdose to her entire brain in ten sessions over a 13-day period from January 7 to January 20, 2010. She was patient number 090546.
Her husband of 45 years, Alfred Chandler, watched in despair as her health rapidly deteriorated. He felt her pain when, short months after radiation treatment for post-brain tumour surgery, she lost all mobility, unable to walk or stand.
Alfred said he couldn't understand why her health was declining when all the MRI scans continued to show a marked reduction in lesions she had developed in the brain following surgery for lung cancer in 2007. The original cancer had spread to her brain and in October 2009, Gloria went under the knife for a second time.
Alfred said his wife was fine after the surgery, her doctors optimistic about her recovery. The radiation treatment was intended to kill any remaining cancer cells. He said it killed her instead. Alfred, 70, said no one from the BLCTC or the Ministry of Health, notified his family that his wife had received a higher dose of radiation than had been prescribed for her. He said he found out about the radiation overdose from reports published in the newspapers.
Alfred is today a man in anguish, unable to come to terms with the loss of his wife, unable to understand the why and how the radiation error occurred and whether the medical consequences for his Gloria could have been different if her treatment plan had taken into account the increased radiation dose.
He is also very angry. Hurt and angry by the State's failure to protect patients and the public. Angry that it is business as usual for the centre involved in the overdose incident. Angry that BLCTC hasn't said sorry to the 223 affected patients and their families. Angry more that the centre did not know that his Gloria had died 14 months after radiation treatment until he asked for a copy of her medical report.
And even then, Alfred said, it took a lot of back and forth before he could get even a simple letter from the centre's clinical director Dr Peter Bovell. Three years after the radiation overexposure to patients at BLCTC, Alfred Chandler is still seeking answers, answers which he said might help with the constant anguish. It might even provide some justice for the affected patients and their families.
Alfred is seeking to form a support group for the affected patients and their families.
He can be reached at 729-5725.