The claimant, a 55-year-old man suffered a spinal injury because of the negligent delay in diagnosing and treating his spinal abscess and he now depends on a wheelchair.
Tom* fell ill at work with a temperature, fatigue and pain in his upper back and shoulders. After attending North Manchester General Hospital A&E, he was referred for physiotherapy and advised to take pain relief. Three days later, after twice contacting his GP, he was advised to return to A&E, which he did.
A blood test was taken at North Manchester General Hospital. A&E that revealed a very high CRP result (a sign of acute inflammation), but Tom was discharged home with antibiotics. Over the next few weeks, his pain increased and he had difficulty swallowing. He then sought treatment at Salford Royal Hospital A&E when an appointment was made for him to see his GP the following day.
However, after returning home, Tom began experiencing shooting pains in his arms and legs and called 999. He went back to the hospital via ambulance and an MRI scan revealed a large spinal abscess causing spinal cord compression. Tom required decompression surgery to his spine and treatment in the ICU, but unfortunately he was confirmed to be tetraparetic post-operatively (motor and sensory incomplete and AIS/Frankel D at the C4 level.) Tetraparesis is a neurological condition in which all four limbs have muscle weakness or are paralysed.
Expert evidence determined that Tom should have been referred to the orthopaedic team for further investigations when his blood test at A&E at North Manchester General hospital revealed the very high CRP levels. This would have resulted in an MRI scan and the underlying spinal infection would have been diagnosed and treated successfully with antibiotics. Tom would have made a full recovery.
The defendants admitted liability in full after being served with a formal letter of claim and judgment was entered.
Tom is now fully wheelchair dependent and incontinent of urine. He has impaired upper limb function and needs help with personal hygiene and dressing and undressing. He was medically retired from his long-term job and has not worked since. He was discharged and transferred from rehabilitation to a small bungalow rented from the local authority, but which was unsuitable long- term.
While quantification of the claim and additional expert evidence was being obtained, Jenny was able to secure interim payments from the defendant to put in place much needed care, case management and therapies (including physiotherapy, aqua therapy and occupational therapy), together with aids and equipment.
A £1m interim payment was also obtained following a contested court application to provide for alternative adapted accommodation. Tom had been independent for transfers by weight bearing but, unfortunately, he suffered a number of falls and assessment of his long-term needs was further complicated because he fractured his ankle after a fall that impacted his ability to weight bear, and hence affected his care needs.
Tom also needed further treatment for another spinal infection, but he was treated promptly on this occasion and did not suffer any additional adverse effects.
A settlement meeting failed to reach a satisfactory conclusion of the claim, but following further negotiations, it settled shortly before trial for £4.1m.
* name changed
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