"Although nothing will ease the pain of losing her, I'm determined to raise awareness of TB, in the hope that nobody else goes through that pain."
This article was first published in inews on 18 March 2021
A tragic case for the Hill family who lost their mum and wife when her treatable tuberculosis was misdiagnosed. Her husband and family have given us permission to share her story - in public - in order to raise awareness of TB that can lie dormant for many years.
Moza Hill had ‘textbook symptoms’ of tuberculosis (TB) and had worked in countries where it is endemic, yet the UK’s leading respiratory specialists never tested her for it
It’s been seven years since his wife Moza’s death, but Victor Hill’s loss has not got any easier. He broke down when he talked about how he feels he let her down.
“I trusted the doctors and told her to keep taking the tablets they gave her,” he said. “I feel responsible.”
But the mother-of-two wasn’t on the right medication: She had tuberculosis (TB) which was repeatedly misdiagnosed for two years.
Despite the carer and former nurse showing the typical symptoms of the infectious disease, and being at risk because of the countries she’d previously lived, it was not spotted until she was seriously ill and had weeks left to live.
Victor, 77, who described his wife who he had been married to for 35 years as “young, fit and active”, believes her death at 66 could have been avoided – TB is considered almost always curable when treated in time.
Two hospital trusts involved in Moza’s care eventually paid Victor a six-figure compensation but he says their refusal to admit fault for several years caused the family “severe anguish”. The pensioner has needed therapy and antidepressants.
Victor is sharing his story to raise awareness of TB, which is often referred to as ‘the forgotten killer’, and prevent others from going through the same experience. “I just wanted an apology and lessons to be learnt,” he said. “The money won’t bring her back.”
Moza, from Stow, Lincolnshire, first visited her GP in January 2012, suffering from a persistent cough, joint pain, night sweats, tiredness, fatigue and marks on her legs. Over the following year she lost two stone.
She had enlarged lymph nodes in her throat, abdomen, groin and chest. This can be a sign of TB, yet aside from doing a biopsy to rule out cancer on her throat lump, Victor says these symptoms were not fully investigated by Lincoln County Hospital.
Moza was born in Zanzibar in Tanzania, Africa, and had worked as a nurse in a number of countries where TB is endemic. While she had then lived in the UK for 48 years afterwards, the TB bacteria can lie dormant in the body for many years until the immune system becomes weak and illness strikes.
Despite her history and having all of the “textbook symptoms” for TB, the UK’s leading respiratory specialists never tested her for it, according to lawyers, Langleys Solicitors. “Yet she was tested three times for AIDs,” said Victor.
After being referred to a hematologist at Lincoln County Hospital, Moza was sent to Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield where she was wrongly diagnosed with sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease that affects multiple organs in the body. Instead of being given life-saving antibiotics she was put on immunosuppressants for the sarcoidosis, despite NICE guidelines stating that all potential mimicking infections must be ruled out beforehand.
Then Moza was referred to Northern General Hospital in Sheffield where medics again failed to pick up on the TB.
She was admitted again at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, at which point the TB had spread to her blood, brain and compromised all of her organs. Again TB was missed.
The treatment rapidly worsened the TB and Moza was admitted to Lincoln County Hospital in December 2013 and then transferred to Northern General Hospital.
It was on 8 January 2014 that the possibility of TB was first mentioned. Langleys Solicitors say treatment for the condition did not begin until 10 days later. She passed away in ICU with Victor at her bedside on 29 January.
A post-mortem examination established that Moza had been suffering from TB. According to expert evidence, say the solicitors, if she had been given appropriate treatment for TB at any point up to and including 8 January she would have survived.
‘A very caring person’
Despite her own declining health, Moza continued to work in her physically and emotionally demanding role as a carer up until weeks before her death.
“Moza was a very caring person who dedicated her whole life to looking after others,” said Victor. “When she was off ill residents at the care home were writing to her because they missed her. She’d been seriously ill for weeks in hospital yet tried to go back to work. She was very poorly but tried to put on a brace face.”
Victor said their two sons, aged 37 and 38, have been left devastated. “They are both badly affected, and one has alopecia, he’s lost his hair and eyebrows and I believe it’s from the stress of losing his mother like this.”
Since her death, Moza’s youngest son has got married and five grandchildren have been born. “She has missed out on so much,” said Victor. “Not only have they took Moza, but they have destroyed my life.”
Andrew Cragg from Langleys Solicitors said: “This was a clear case of medical negligence: given Moza’s background, TB should have been ruled out as standard.”
Dr Jennifer Hill, medical director (Operations) at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust: “Our teams work exceptionally hard to provide the best possible care to our patients and we are so very sorry that in respect of Mrs Hill’s care in 2013 some of our actions were not as expected.
“We have apologised to Mrs Hill’s family for the shortcomings in the care that we provided and whilst nothing that we can say will take away the pain of their loss, we can assure them that we have taken what happened very seriously in order to learn and make changes where we can, so that the chances of it happening again are minimised.”
Dr Neill Hepburn, medical director at United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We have offered our sincerest and deepest apologies to the family of Mrs Hill for the failings in her diagnosis and treatment. We have also put in place measures and training to ensure that we learn from the errors made in Mrs Hill’s care to prevent this from happening again.”