Mrs Johnston underwent a routine operation for scoliosis, the abnormal twisting and curvature of the spine, at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital. Four days later, her treating doctors realised after complaints of abdominal pain and distention that Mrs Johnston had an obstructed or paralytic ileus. Further investigations were undertaken at the Spire Hospital and she underwent emergency surgery at Barnet Hospital the same day to remove the obstruction.
Mrs Johnston was transferred to the ITU at Chase Farm Hospital to recover. She suffered from abdominal collections which were drained effectively during her time in ITU. Her condition gradually improved and she was discharged from the unit to one of the general wards.
Following this transfer, Mrs Johnston's condition started to deteriorate. She continued to suffer from abdominal collections but the staff on the general ward either did not drain them properly or did not attempt to drain them at all. Mrs Johnston's family later found out that the nurses were also not taking the most basic measurements such as her weight or her basic nutritional information.
A drain was finally inserted to remove the fluid in December 2009 following a CT scan which worryingly demonstrated significant abdominal fluid collections. The drain was reported to have 'fallen out' just a day later but a replacement drain was not inserted. No further monitoring followed.
Mrs Johnston's family pleaded with the treating staff to drain the collections and monitor her condition more closely. No action was taken despite their pleas.
Despite her very obvious deterioration, Mrs Johnston was transferred to the Wellington Hospital in early January 2010 to begin a course of rehabilitation. On arrival at the Wellington Hospital, doctors were shocked to find that Mrs Johnston was suffering from profound malnourishment, having lost over 25% of her body weight whilst at Chase Farm Hospital.
Despite the best efforts of the staff at the Wellington Hospital, Mrs Johnston developed a rapidly progressive lung infection shortly after her transfer. In her weakened nutritional state and suffering from chronic sepsis, she tragically passed away on 22 January 2010 due to multi-organ failure.
Mr Johnston instructed Jonathan Zimmern to investigate the care that his wife had received at Chase Farm Hospital. Jonathan instructed a Colorectal Surgeon, a Gastroenterologist, a Radiologist and a Nursing expert to comment on the case. The experts were all highly critical of the nutritional care provided to Mrs Johnston by Chase Farm Hospital that allowed her to become malnourished and their failure to drain her agonising abscesses. Surprisingly, the Trust argued that Mrs Johnston was not in fact malnourished despite Jonathan's findings and they continued to fight the allegations.
Finally, just three months before trial, the Trust conceded all their failings and Jonathan was able to negotiate a settlement for £230,000 for Mr Johnston and his two daughters.
Upon completion of the case, Mr Johnston said:
"From the start of the case, Jonathan and I both knew it was a complex and difficult case but he nevertheless took it on. He worked diligently throughout and we achieved an out of court settlement far better than I could have hoped for.
"Throughout the lifetime of the case, I was impressed with Jonathan's professionalism, attention to detail, his empathy with my difficulty in dealing with things, and his keeping me in the picture at all times. He did not stint in obtaining the best medical experts to assist, and legal counsel to work on the team.
"I would not hesitate to recommend Jonathan Zimmern and Fieldfisher for claims for medical negligence to anyone in a similar situation. They are the best legal team you can get."
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