Woman from Dover left using a wheelchair after prescription drug 'ruined her life'

No caption
-Credit: (Image: © Courtesy Petra Walker-Barrera© / SWNS)


A Royal Navy veteran from Kent says she has been 'robbed of her life' after GPs continually prescribed her with a drug that has left her wheelchair-bound and unable to smile. Petra Walker-Barrera, 68, used to live a full and active life spending time with her family, working on cruise ships, and serving as a radar operator in the Navy.

But now her days consist of doctors' visits and surgeries, she has issues with her movement, speech, and vision, and she can no longer do simple tasks like cooking or cleaning. The gran became ill after GPs continually prescribed her with an anti-sickness drug called metoclopramide, despite NHS warnings that the medication should only be used for a five-day period.

Ms Walker-Barrera was repeatedly reissued with the drug from 2008 all the way to 2019, receiving it no less than 30 times between 2014 and 2017. Over the years, she reported several serious health issues to a range of GPs, but most dismissed her symptoms as anxiety and all failed to link her problems to metoclopramide.

READ MORE: Kent Hero died after 'jumping into freezing canal' to save autistic man who had fallen in

READ MORE: Woman gifts her husband a £5,600 hair transplant after holiday snap horror

In 2019, a specialist neurologist finally realised what the cause was but by this point the damage was irreversible. She took legal action over her treatment and received a settlement, lawyers Slater Gordon confirmed on Wednesday (May 29).

But Ms Walker-Barrera, from Dover, said: "What happened has robbed me of my life. It's truly taken my life away.

No caption
Petra, 68, has been left in a wheelchair -Credit:© Courtesy Petra Walker-Barrera© / SWNS

"I can no longer do things for myself. I constantly have to rely on people even for something like cooking a meal.

"I've had to come to terms with being in a wheelchair. I don't want people to see me like that.

"I also lost my job on a cruise ship because you can't work at sea if you're disabled. And I've worked at sea all my life."

Ms Walker-Barrera joined the Navy aged 16 where she worked as a radar operator. She left her role at 21 because she was getting married but the relationship soon turned abusive and she raised her four children alone.

The single mother later found herself drawn back to the sea and started a career on cruise ships, where she worked in both guest relations and accounts. She has found the loss of this lifestyle particularly heartbreaking.

No caption
Petra (centre) says she loved her life at sea when she was able to work on cruise ships -Credit:© Courtesy Petra Walker-Barrera© / SWNS

She said: "It's really upsetting because I've been at sea my whole life and I can't do that anymore, because if the ship was in trouble I would no longer be able to help. I also feel like I've lost my identity because in my roles I had to be well-dressed and take pride in my appearance.

"But now, I cannot wear nice shoes because my feet have twisted inwards, and I cannot put make-up on because I can't use my hands. I decided to dye my hair red because it helped me feel in control."

Ms Walker-Barrera has now been fitted with a deep brain stimulation device, which helps her control her speech and movement. But she will still struggle with various issues including a heart defect and neurological movement disorders tardive dystonia and dyskinesia for the rest of her life.

She has decided to share her story as a warning about the dangers of long-term use of metoclopramide in the hopes of stopping others suffering her fate. "I want people to realise how dangerous this drug is," Ms Barrera-Walker said.

No caption
Petra Walker-Barrera (back row fifth from right) once served in the Navy -Credit:© Courtesy Petra Walker-Barrera© / SWNS

"And I want GPs to start listening to patients and stop this practice of endless repeat prescriptions. I was told so many times that my symptoms were anxiety, or because I was a woman, or because of my age.

"This was because GPs would only listen to one symptom at a time and I was never given reviews for my medication. I'm fearful that this will cost someone their life if it hasn't already. And it will affect so many people.

"It's important to think about the fact that this hasn't just impacted my life it's also impacted the lives of my children who have had to take on the roles of carers. When the NHS was set up, it was brilliant. But it's changed and not for the better. And I think things are going wrong at GP level.

"Doctors aren't picking issues up like they're supposed to and things like this happen. Now, I cost the NHS a lot of money with all my care.

"But that all could have been prevented if someone had listened to me and if doctors hadn't prescribed me with a drug for much, much longer than they were ever supposed to." Ms Walker Barrera added that the sum she received will never fix what she has lost.

"I was asked by legal teams to submit details about my loss of earnings, but it wasn't just the pay," she said. "It was the lifestyle. It was being at sea. It was being able to take my children on cruises in the Caribbean.

"You can't quantify the loss of something like that."

Get more news from KentLive straight to your inbox for free HERE.