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Case Study

Settlement following repeated misdiagnosis resulting in above-knee amputation

Caron Heyes acted for client Mrs Henry leading to a seven-figure settlement following delays in diagnosing and treating her acutely ischaemic leg at Hereford County Hospital and, later, Worcestershire Acute Hospital. As a result of negligent delays and surgical treatment she had to have an above-knee amputation that has changed her life forever. Throughout the case Caron was supported by Jamie Green and leading Counsel Henry Witcomb QC.

Mrs Henry's claim began when she began to suffer from a painful skin patch at the end of her big right toe, which had turned purple. She went to see her GP who advised her to return if her toe got worse. Her condition deteriorated and she called her GP again who arranged an X-ray of her foot, which came back as normal. The GP referred her to an orthopaedic foot surgeon who arranged for an MRI of her foot, which again was normal. Despite this, the pain and discolouration in her toe remained and spread to the rest of her foot.

A week later, Mrs Henry called the local 111 service reporting worsening pain and discolouration in her calf. She was advised to speak to her private orthopaedic foot surgeon whom she was due to see the following day, a Friday.  When she saw her foot surgeon, he referred her for to a private vascular surgeon and for blood tests to eliminate a range of conditions.  Early on Monday morning Mrs Henry and her husband went to have those blood tests at Hereford County Hospital. Her ability to walk deteriorated suddenly during her moving from her car to the bloods department, so that she could not weight bear on her Right leg, and on arriving at the phlebotomy desk was given a wheelchair to use, and was told she would need to go to A&E after the bloods had been taken At the A&E  appointment despite having tests that showed she did not have a DVT, that was what was diagnosed and she was prescribed blood-thinning medication and tod that as her private surgeon had referred her to a vascular surgeon for sometime in the coming weeks she should wait for that appointment.  In fact she had onset of acute peripheral arterial disease and needed an urgent vascular review to prevent the blood vessels occluding (closing up) in her Right leg and shutting up blood supply to the leg.  

Mrs Henry's condition continued to deteriorate and she was admitted under the Vascular team at Worcestershire Acute Hospital a week later with complete occlusion of the blood supply in her right leg. However the situation was still redeemable with prompt action.  The plan was for surgery the following day. Her blood thinning medication was stopped early the next morning in preparation for morning surgery, but surgery was delayed to the late afternoon and due to failures in communications the heparin was not restarted in the meantime. This meant that she was not appropriately heparinised before surgery.

At the start of surgery, she was not given the appropriate bolus of blood thinning medication required to ensure there was adequate blood flow. As a result, the surgery was unsuccessful. A trial of conservative treatment with only blood-thinning medication was attempted over the next three days, and this also failed leading to a further clot forming, so that in the end Mrs Henry's lower right leg was no longer viable. She required an above-the-knee amputation a week later.

Mrs Henry's life has drastically changed because of her injuries. She has had to widely adapt her home and to buy various equipment to help her manage. Daily actions taken for granted on two legs have become very challenging when trying to do them using a prosthesis and/or a wheelchair. She has shown incredible determination to overcome those challenges and continue to work and live a fulfilling life with her family.

On being instructed Caron gathered in expert evidence from specialists in A&E medicine, vascular surgery, anaesthesia and haematology who concluded that the treatment provided by both the A&E and vascular surgery teams was negligent and, but for the treatment provided, she would have avoided the above-knee amputation on the balance of probabilities. Crucially, she also obtained witness evidence from one of Mrs Henry’s treating surgeons that helped pinpoint her deteriorating condition at the time she attended the Trust’s A&E department. The claim, brought against two separate Trusts, was heavily defended throughout the case.  
Shortly before the liability only trial, Caron and Leading Counsel, supported by Jamie, negotiated a seven-figure settlement for Mrs Henry. This will allow her to purchase appropriate accommodation, hire a carer and to access appropriate therapies and equipment to maximise her recovery.

At the end of the claim, Mrs Henry said:
"Although the process is quite long winded, and sometimes stressful, I feel now that we have answers as to how I lost my leg. I can now move on, find a more suitable property to live in and buy in some extra care and rehabilitation that, up to now, I have been unable to use.
"Living with an above-the-knee amputation has been tricky, but we have been helped along the way by Caron and Jamie who offered advice and support where needed. Even when my husband became severely ill and had to be cross-examined before trial, we never felt under pressure and were dealt with in a caring and supportive way.
"I am extremely grateful for all the help and expertise I have received and would highly recommend Caron, Jamie and Fieldfisher to anyone in a similar predicament"
 

Contact us

For further information about delayed diagnosis claims and amputation claims, please call Caron Heyes on 03304606743 or email caron.heyes@fieldfisher.com, or call Jamie Green on 03304606771 or email jamie.green@fieldfisher.com.

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