A family has been left devastated after a young Blackpool mum died following a routine operation to remove a gall bladder.
Mum-of-two Leah Mills died from acute multiple organ failure after developing pancreatitis and septicaemia following the operation to remove a gall bladder.
The 23-year-old, of Gorton Street, Blackpool, lost her fight surrounded by her family on Monday, after being transferred to the Manchester Royal Infirmary for specialist treatment.
Her mother Karen Innes, 44, said: “Leah was conscious and aware of what was going on almost until the end.
“When they were moving her to Manchester, they said they were going to put her to sleep with anaesthetic so her body could concentrate on getting better.
“Just before they did she asked me if she was going to die.
“I kissed her and held her and told her she wasn’t. That was the last chance I properly spoke to my daughter. Seeing Leah with all those tubes was horrific.
“The whole time she was poorly was a complete rollercoaster of emotions. One minute the doctors were saying her outlook was looking good and next they were saying prepare yourself for the worse.
“I just feel numb.”
The former Collegiate High School pupil was a full-time mum to two-year-old Harvey and one-year-old Ebony Mae.
The children are currently being looked after by family members.
Leah’s older sister Donna, said: “Leah lived in her own bubble.
“She loved her two children, Harvey and Ebony to death.
“She was always the life and soul of the party. She had a cheeky personality that everyone loved.
“She was well known for her hot temper but she would quickly forget anything had ever happened and come waltzing back in.”
Leah, a former Devonshire Primary School pupil, had been feeling unwell since Christmas.
She had been suffering from stomach pains and had made several visits to hospital to get checked out.
In May, Leah’s conditioned worsened and after a trip to Blackpool Victoria Hospital’s accident and emergency department she was admitted for a routine gallbladder removal.
During the six hour keyhole procedure, her family stayed by her bedside expecting her to make a full recovery. After coming around from surgery, Leah’s family said doctors were struggling to maintain her heart rate and breathing.
Mother-of-five Mrs Innes, of Layton Road, Blackpool, said: “While Leah was on the surgical high care unit we were told that during the operation she has suffered damage to her pancreas.
“They said this was a common complication of a gallbladder removal.
“However, her condition didn’t get any better and she was moved to the intensive care unit.
“Slowly, she started to recover and when she felt well enough she discharged herself on two occasions. But, both times she went back in within a couple of hours because she felt ill again.”
Eventually, it was established Leah was suffering from an infection of the pancreas and that a cyst had developed.
Medics decided to transfer her to Manchester Royal Infirmary for treatment. When her family arrived at the hospital they were told her condition had worsened and that Leah was suffering from multiple organ failure despite the kidney dialysis and respiratory care she was receiving.
On Sunday, doctors decided to operate on Leah to try to help rid the infection. But just hours later, the young mum died surrounded by her family and fiancé Keith Philpott.
Mrs Innes, a phlebotomist, who takes blood from patients, said: “At the end the nurse told me her blood pressure would just continue falling until eventually it would stop.
“She said there would be no alarms and that Leah would just slip away. I couldn’t take my eyes off the machine. Leah hung on to life long enough to see her partner Keith arrive. I could not have asked for more caring nursing staff at the end.
“One nurse even gave us a memory making box full of ink and paper and scissors, so we could take a lock of her hair and her hand and fingerprints for her children.”
Leah’s family now all plan to get tattoos of her fingerprints as a lasting a tribute.
Mrs Innes said: “Leah was the mad and crazy one. She would always be asking for a cheeky favour. She had so many friends who loved her. We will miss her unbelievably.”
Donna added: “She was a nutcase. She loved having fun and enjoyed going up town for a drink and a dance.
“She was my best friend growing up because we were so close in age. She will be missed by everyone.”
As well as Ebony and Harvey, Leah leaves her mum and dad Mark, 46, siblings Donna, 25, Melissa, 18, Christopher, 17, and Benjamin, 12, partner Keith plus many extended family members and friends.
Scores of tributes have been posted on Facebook.
Her family, who are considering making an official complaint to NHS bosses, are now asking for anyone who wants to make a donation towards Leah’s funeral to get in contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to NHS Direct one in every 200 operations to remove a gall bladder ends in tragedy. One in 15 suffer non-fatal complications. Around 60,000 of the operations are carried out each year.
A spokesman for Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “The Trust would like to offer its sincere condolences to the family of Leah Mills.
“We would encourage Mrs Innes to put forward her concerns so that we can investigate them thoroughly and provide her with a full written response of our findings.”
Manchester Royal Infirmary declined to comment.