Donna Mercer, 34, the widow of Craig, 32, said she believes he would still be alive if he had been allowed to see a doctor in person.
‘The treatment was disgusting’
The mum of seven said he became unwell in June last year, and despite “constantly” contacting their GP at South Bank Surgery in Leeds, he was unable to get an in-person appointment.
Three months later, Ms Mercer said her husband threw up blood that was a “deep dark reddish colour”, but doctors told him over the phone this was due to “acid reflux”.
Further phone consultations followed in early October, when doctors diagnosed the 32-year-old with a stomach ulcer and prescribed him antibiotics.
Craig admitted himself to A&E that month and was sent home, but his wife had to call an ambulance two days later after his health worsened.
She said: “He deteriorated within two days. He looked like someone who had been on heroin all his life after two days of being sick non-stop.
“It took me five days of being constantly sat in hallways for a doctor to come and see me, and when the doctor came to see me, I asked if they’d checked him for stomach cancer.”
Tests finally revealed the crushing news he had stomach cancer, which runs in his family, and the couple were given the devastating news that it was terminal.
Craig sadly passed away just 13 weeks after his diagnosis.
While preparing for his funeral last Friday (21 January), on what would have been his 33rd birthday, Ms Mercer claimed he would still be alive if he had been allowed to see a doctor sooner.
She said: “Craig would still be alive if he’d had a face-to-face appointment. The symptoms were there for five months.
“I really do think he was let down, and I really think they used Covid a little bit too much as an excuse.
“During that time that Craig had these symptoms, you didn’t have to wear facemasks, you could go back into clubs.
“He had a five-month gap, from June to October – that’s five months’ worth of symptoms, and literally when the surgeon got into him, it had just spread.
“The treatment and everything he received was kind of disgusting.”
A spokesperson for NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group said: "We were very sorry to learn of Mr Mercer’s death and offer our sincere condolences to his family.
"Throughout the Covid pandemic all Leeds GP practices have offered face to face appointments where they are deemed clinically necessary following telephone triage with a GP, as was mandated at the start of the pandemic."
The couple wed before his final day
The couple were due to marry on 29 January this year, but moved the date forward to ensure they were wed before his final day.
Ms Mercer said: “That was one of the best days of my life, other than when my kids were born.
“Craig was so nervous, but I’ve never seen that man smile so much in my life, knowing that he was going to be in hospital for his wedding day. He was just so happy.
“Craig had wanted to marry me for years, and he actually asked me and asked me and asked me – and I’d always said, ‘yeah, but we’ve got years.’
“Obviously when he found out about the cancer, he then said to me ‘now will you marry me?’ and how could anyone not?
"I always wanted to marry him, I just didn’t know what time was the right time."
Craig died on 1 January just 13 weeks after his stomach cancer was first identified.
In the weeks before his death, doctors discovered that he carried a hereditary cancer gene, meaning his children will now be tested and treated far earlier than he was.
Ms Mercer added: “Thanks to Craig we now know what is actually happening, and soon that will be able to be dealt with.
“I had to lose him, but in order to lose him, he saved his children and his family, and my grandchildren that my two kids will have.”
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