‘I think about her every day’ – Stevenage mum publishes book about her teenage daughter’s final days after chest operation went wrong

Kay Whiteman, 17, died after complications arose during surgery

Kay Whiteman, 17, died after complications arose during surgery - Credit: Archant

A Stevenage mother struggling to come to terms with the death of her teenage daughter three years ago has written a heart-wrenching book about her final days.

All proceeds from Angela's book will go to Great Ormond Street Hospital

All proceeds from Angela's book will go to Great Ormond Street Hospital - Credit: Archant

Kay Whiteman died in June 2012 aged just 17 after complications stemming from a routine operation to correct a sunken hollow in her chest – known as pectus excavatum.

The Marriotts School pupil’s mum, Angela, has written a book – Pectus Excavatum and the Nuss Procedure Took Away My Daughter – which includes extracts from a diary written when Kay was fighting for her life.

As well as it being part of the grieving process, Angela, of Twinwoods, says she wrote the book to make others aware of the potential dangers of the operation.

Angela, 52, said: “When Kay was 15 she came to me a little concerned that her breasts were not developing properly. Some girls in the PE changing rooms had commented on the large dip in her chest and how odd her breasts looked.

Angela Whiteman has written a heart-wrenching book about her daughter Kay's final days.

Angela Whiteman has written a heart-wrenching book about her daughter Kay's final days. - Credit: Archant


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“Kay very self-consciously took off her top to show me and my stomach flipped. I could see why she was concerned. She said she felt like a freak.” Angela made an appointment for Kay to see a doctor and she was referred to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London for something called the Nuss Procedure.

They were told the procedure was a minimally invasive, low risk, routine operation.

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It involved making two small incisions and inserting a titanium rod across her chest, which would be curved to push the sternum out. It would have to stay in place for two years.

Kay, who was engaged to fellow student James Davis, had the operation in November 2011 but never recovered her health.

Angela said: “ Kay was poorly all over Christmas and was in so much pain. Just getting out of bed tired her. It was dreadful to watch.

“She couldn’t lie down in bed, shower or dress herself.

“Kay wanted her life back. She wished she’d never had this stupid operation.”

In March 2012, Kay started coughing up large amounts of blood and was diagnosed with a bleed in her lung and pneumonia.

She developed a lung infection, and in May 2012 deteriorated rapidly.

Angela said: “I was in the shower when I heard Kay shout ‘Mum! I’m bleeding!’ Her older brother Kieran was sat with her and blood was bubbling out of her mouth and nose like a volcano. I was horrified.”

Kay had developed a blood clot in her lung and was put on a ventilator in intensive care.

Surgery to have the clot and rod removed at GOSH revealed a tear in her lung. The rod had been stemming the bleed. Kay’s heart stopped for 20 minutes.

She was put on life support, but had suffered extensive brain damage and the decision was taken to turn off the life support.

Angela said it was like her life ‘had ended too’, adding: “I just wanted her to be happy and feel normal. She was young and had her whole life ahead of her. She wanted to be a social worker; later a foster carer. She had found a wonderful young man who she wanted to have her own family with.

“I think about her every day. I grieve for what might have been and I will miss her forever.”

Angela’s book is available for £10 from Amazon or directly from Angela by emailing angelawhiteman36@gmail.com. All proceeds will be donated to GOSH.

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