The loss experienced by the family of Derry woman Shannon Meenan-Browse is inconceivable.

At the end of August, the 32-year-old mum of four became the latest tragic victim of weight loss surgery in Turkey gone catastrophically wrong.

Shannon travelled abroad as a last-ditch attempt to lose the weight she put on following the sudden deaths of her sister and brother in the space of just six months.

And while the 32-year-old Creggan woman lay fighting for her life in hospital, another one of her brothers passed away, with Shannon herself laid to rest on August 29, just weeks after her sibling’s funeral.

“Nobody knows what to say, Shannon’s parents are broken, it’s so terrible,” says her heartbroken husband Don, who met Shannon through a mutual friend 13 years ago, with the couple getting married at St Mary’s Church six years ago.

Their four children are the only thing keeping Don going at the moment. 

He is determined to keep life as normal as possible for 14-year-old Tiernan, seven-year-old twins Dylan and Darragh, and Noah, who turned five days after losing his mummy.

Noah has since started primary school without Shannon there to hold his hand as he arrived for his first day at school and, excruciatingly, the youngster had his birthday cake as he sat next to his mum’s coffin while mourners at the wake sang happy birthday.

Says Don: “Shannon had been looking forward to getting Noah his uniform, she’d always wanted to see him in his uniform, but she never got the chance. I had to go and get it sorted while she was in hospital.”

Don watched helplessly for 18 months as Shannon’s health deteriorated after she returned from Turkey following gastric sleeve surgery.

“She was okay when she first came home but started vomiting after a few weeks and it just never stopped,” he explains.

“Shannon was being sick a dozen times a day. She couldn’t keep anything down. She was living on the water from Pot Noodles and watery soup. I would make us a Sunday dinner and she would spend the next 24 hours trying to eat two spoonfuls of watered-down potato.

“It got so bad that her teeth were rotting and her hair was falling out. She didn’t want to, but she ended up having to get a wig. We put the wig on her for her wake but I took it off before her funeral and threw it away. 

“She never wanted to have to have the wig in the first place and it just wasn’t her.”

Shannon, who was known and loved for her distinctive laugh and never-ending pranks on her husband, flew to Turkey with a friend on February 6, 2022. 

Incredibly, despite the fact patients should go through months of assessments and psychological counselling prior to undergoing the radical surgery, Don says Shannon’s operation happened the day after she arrived.

She flew home on February 11 with advice to follow a liquid diet for a number of weeks, followed by pureed food for a period, before she would be able to begin eating solid food again.

“Every time Shannon ate something solid, the vomiting got worse,” says Don.

Shannon’s condition continued to deteriorate – as she essentially starved to death over the next 18-months. She was rushed to Altnagelvin Hospital on the morning of July 25.

Don (36) continues: “At 6.45am, I was woken up by her squealing in pain, so I rang an ambulance straight away and they took her to hospital. She was texting me just after noon to say she thought she was going for emergency surgery.

“The surgeons were standing outside her room ready to take her to theatre. That’s really the last time we spoke. She went straight into ICU after her operation and she woke up a few times and looked around, she would try to speak but she couldn’t.

“Every time they reduced her sedation, she would become distressed so they would have to put it back up again. They told us four times over the four and a half weeks she was in hospital she wasn’t going to make it, but there was always a bit of hope.

“One day her bloods started to come down, but they started to go back up again. Her liver was failing, then her kidneys, then her heart. The younger boys never went to see her because of all the machines and tubes, it wasn’t right for them to see, but Tiernan did.

“We got a phone call at 10.20am on August 25 telling us to come to the hospital and she passed away at nine that night. We were there with her the whole time, me, Tiernan, her mummy and daddy, her aunts. Tiernan held her hand at the end.”

Afterwards, Don was faced with the harrowing task of telling his three youngest sons their mummy had passed away: “The morning after, I took the three boys into the living room and told them their mum was an angel now. They burst out crying. It broke my heart, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

“Shannon was slim when we met but she lost her brother and sister six months apart and that’s when the depression set in and she put on weight. She had been doing really well with a personal trainer and she’d lost five stone herself.

“But then she developed severe neuropathy and was basically housebound. That hit her hard and that’s when she started to think about surgery in Turkey. She did a lot of research but only ever saw positive stories, never the negative stuff.

“Shannon was 101kg when she had her surgery, she was 51kg when she went into hospital. She lost eight stone. She wanted people to know what she went through, she would never have gone to Turkey if she had known how bad things could be.

“That’s why we’re speaking out. We just want people to be aware of the dangers. I would never want another family to go through what we’re going through.

“The only thing I have is that we donated Shannon’s corneas. She always said if anything happened to her, she would want to donate her organs. Her corneas were the only part of her they could use but it helps to know she has helped someone else to see.”