Published: 12:00, 24 March 2014
A grandmother has been left horribly disfigured after medics failed to notice she had a tumour the size of a turnip growing on her nose.
Golda Humphrey, 79, now has a hole in the centre of her face after a series of life-saving operations to remove a huge cancerous growth from the end of her nose.
The deformity began when she was in hospital and over nearly five months a scab repeatedly formed on the tip of her nose before dropping off.
Warning: Graphic images below
Doctors initially dismissed the growth as a freak reaction to the medication she was given after badly breaking her leg.
But each time it came back the sore got bigger and nurses jokingly nicknamed her after the fairytale character whose nose keeps growing.
Golda, 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."
Nan-of-two Golda's ordeal began in July 2011 when she took a tumble in the garden of her home in Windmill Street, Gravesend, 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 fix her damaged knee.
Midway through her stay she mysteriously began developing a scab on the tip of her nose.
Widow Golda 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 namesake 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 Golda 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.
"It looks like she was shot in the face. I love her all the world but I think the NHS has really let her down" - Shannon Helmsley
Golda and her family are 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 nan 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 all the world but I think the NHS has really let her down."
A hospital spokesman said: "We have investigated and responded to the concerns raised by Mrs Humphrey in October 2012.
"Mrs Humphrey was admitted after a fall with a badly broken leg that took a long time to heal.
"She was regularly reviewed throughout her stay and no other concerns were raised.
"We are very sorry to hear that she later went on to develop a malignant melanoma on her nose after her discharge from our care."
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