Great-grandmother can't dance amid gallbladder operation complications

Gladys Parfitt, 74, can no longer tend her beloved garden

Gladys Parfitt, 74, can no longer tend her beloved garden after gallbladder surgery went wrong - Credit: Joel Adams

A great-grandmother spent three months in hospital for what should have been a one-day procedure, after the operation went wrong.

Gladys Parfitt, 74, was a fit and active fan of gardening and country dancing when she went into the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) in June 2019 for a routine procedure to remove gallstones.

But during the operation doctors perforated her duodenum, a known but extremely rare risk of the procedure, and Mrs Parfitt had to have her gallbladder removed. The issue she faced happens in fewer than one in 750 cases.

She was transferred to intensive care and weeks later admitted to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge with sepsis, eventually to be discharged in late September.

She can no longer stand without pain, or bend over to tie her shoelaces, and fears her days of dancing and tending her beloved Wroxham garden are behind her.

Gladys Parfitt, 74, had gallbladder surgery at the Norfolk and Norwich hospital

Gladys Parfitt, 74, had gallbladder surgery at the Norfolk and Norwich hospital - Credit: Joel Adams

Her sister Grace said: “I don’t know how she pulled through to be honest. It was supposed to be a one-hour operation and after five hours they came out and said to me things weren’t right.

“She always says she’s fine but she isn’t, she’s still in a lot of pain, she can hardly bend down now.”

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The sisters are big fans of country music and, prior to the surgery and the pandemic, could be found in the dance halls and social clubs of Norwich, Great Yarmouth and beyond, sometimes multiple times a week. 

“She can’t go out and have a good time now and she can’t dance. She was so agile, it was unbelievable,” Grace said.

Mrs Parfitt said the operation was painful but the long stay in hospital and subsequent complications were worse.

“It was awful,” she said, “I missed my great grandchild being born.

“It was horrendous, especially in Cambridge when I couldn’t see anyone all the week, it was just weekends that people could get over to visit.

“I can’t bend over to do my shoes and socks properly now because I’m in a lot of pain. When I get up I have to hold my tummy before I can stand up, it isn’t nice.

“I can’t dance. And I love gardening but I can’t bend over to do it any more which is frustrating. That’s the hardest bit, because I love my garden”

The Critoph triplets, Gladys (L) Grace (C) and Gillian (R)

The Critoph triplets, Gladys (L) Grace (C) and Gillian (R) with their grooms in the Eastern Daily Press on Monday 20 September 1965 - Credit: Archant

One of three triplets, Gladys and her sisters Grace and Gillian previously appeared in the Eastern Daily Press in 1965, when all three got married on the same day at the same church.

Tragically Gladys lost her husband to cancer within a year of the wedding, and survived a brush with cancer herself 19 years ago.

Her sister Grace said: “She’s hardy, but this has been worse than the cancer.”

Mrs Parfitt's consultant was Mr Camilo Valero, the surgeon under fire for three botched gallbladder operations in January 2020, but he had nothing to do with her surgery or postoperative care.

A spokesman for NNUH said: “We are sorry to hear of Mrs Parfitt’s concerns and we would urge her or her family to get in touch so that we can answer any questions they have directly."

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