- Golda Humphrey, 79, went to hospital with a badly broken leg
- While she was there she developed a large scab on her nose
- Doctors told her it was a reaction to the medication she was taking
- Staff at the unnamed hospital nicknamed her Pinocchio
- She was eventually diagnosed with skin cancer and had to have surgery
- She is now considering taking legal action against the hospital
- It is not possible for surgeons to rebuild her nose – she has been given a prosthetic but she doesn’t wear it as it is uncomfortable
A grandmother has been left with a disfigured nose after doctors failed to notice she had a tumour the size of turnip growing on her nose – and nicknamed her ‘Pinocchio’.
Golda Humphrey, 79, now has a hole in the centre of her face after a series of life-saving operations to remove a cancerous growth from the end of her nose.
The problem developed when she was in hospital and over nearly five months a scab repeatedly formed on the tip of her nose before falling off.
Doctors initially dismissed the growth as a reaction to the medication she was given after breaking her leg.
But each time it came back the sore got bigger and nurses jokingly nicknamed her ‘Pinocchio’.
Mrs Humphrey, a retired bus conductor, said: ‘I understand they butchered my face to save my life, and I’m very grateful.
‘But during the time the tumour was growing on my face, I saw dozens of doctors and nurses – many of whom commented about it but did not even bother doing any tests.
‘When I was finally diagnosed with skin cancer, it was way too late.
‘The tumour was so big it had spread to my lip and I had to have two operations to remove it.
‘By the end it was the size of a turnip. If they’d caught it sooner, I might be able to still smell the flowers in my garden. I’m so annoyed.
‘Now I’ve been left with a gaping hole in the middle of my face – I look like I’ve been shot.’
Mrs Humphrey’s ordeal began in July 2011 when she fell over in the garden of her home in Kent, and broke her femur and shattered her kneecap.
She was hospitalised for 15 weeks after her leg failed to heal and she underwent surgery to repair her damaged knee.
Midway through her stay she mysteriously began developing a scab on the tip of her nose.
The widow said: ‘It would appear on a Monday, scab up through the week and then fall off on its own by the Friday.
‘It was the strangest thing. The nurses and doctors said it was just a reaction to the medication I was on for my break, so I didn’t think anything of it.
‘I mean, you don’t, do you? You trust doctors to get it right and know when something is wrong.’
But just before she went in for her knee operation, in September 2011, the scab started to get bigger and refused to fall off.
Her daughter Golda Helmsley, 54, of Rainham, Essex, said: ‘The nurses used to call her “Pinocchio”.
‘It was almost their pet name for her.
‘My mum hated it but she wouldn’t say anything about it, because that’s the type of lady she is. She’d never make a fuss.
‘It was like she was growing a horn.
‘When she was recovering after her knee op, the lump just kept getting bigger and bigger.
‘And then when she was discharged it was still growing.
‘All the doctors and nurses we spoke to said it was just a cyst or a reaction to her meds, so they didn’t think it was anything to worry about.’
It was only when Mrs Humphrey saw a locum in December while staying with her daughter – around five months after the curious growth began – that she was told it could be more serious.
The doctor referred her to a different hospital where she had a biopsy and was told she had a malignant melanoma in her nose and on her lip.
Over the course of two operations, surgeons at an Essex hospital removed almost all of her nose, as well as a portion of her upper lip, and a slice of skin from her neck for skin grafts which did not take.
She has also been fitted with a prosthetic nose, which she is reluctant to wear because it’s uncomfortable.
Mrs Humphrey and her family are considering suing the hospital in Kent – which they do not want to name for legal reasons – for negligence, claiming it had ample opportunity to spot the tumour.
Granddaughter Shannon Helmsley, 18, said her grandmother wasn’t the same person any more.
She said: ‘My nan has been knocked for six by all this.
‘They’ve given her a prosthetic nose but she’s self-conscious about it because her face is a complete mess.
‘It looks like she was shot in the face.
‘I love her with all the world but I think the NHS has really let her down.’
WHAT IS MALIGNANT MELANOMA?
Melanoma is a rare and serious type of cancer that begins in the skin and can spread to other parts of the body.
The most common sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole.
These moles are most often found on the back, legs, arms and face.
In most cases, the moles have an irregular shape and more than one colour.
They may also be larger than normal and are sometimes itchy and bleed.
Melanoma is one of the most common cancers in people aged 15 to 34.
More than 2,000 people die of the disease every year in the UK and it is becoming more common.