Helen Thompson recovered £310,000 damages in a claim for a 38-year-old man who was wrongly advised to have a section of his bowel removed to treat diverticulitis, which he did not have. Mr B then suffered serious complications following the surgery, including an anastomotic leak and a severe pelvic infection. He then needed several further operations which left him with chronic abdominal pain, bowel and bladder dysfunction and mental health problems. Mr B's symptoms are permanent and have left him unable to work or take care of his young family.
Mr B had a history of recurrent IBS-type symptoms. In 2008, investigations confirmed some minor bowel disease but excluded a diagnosis of diverticulitis, a much more serious condition.
Mr B continued to suffer and in 2011 his GP referred him to the surgical team at Darent Valley Hospital, where he underwent a colonoscopy and a biopsy which, again, confirmed that he did not suffer from diverticulitis.
In early 2012 Mr B was seen again by the surgical team. His consultant said he would get hold of Mr B's previous notes from other hospitals, review his scan and investigation results before deciding whether surgery was appropriate. Unfortunately, the consultant failed to request the records from other hospitals.
A few months later, on the consultant's advice, Mr B agreed to have a section of his bowel removed, believing it was the only option to improve his symptoms. Experts in Mr B's case confirmed that it was entirely inappropriate for the consultant to recommend this surgery and it was unlikely improve his symptoms.
In May 2012, Mr B underwent an elective laparoscopic anterior resection of the bowel. In the following days, he was extremely unwell with severe abdominal pain, fever, high heart rate and a severe infection. Despite this, there was a delay in performing a CT scan to look for any complications of the surgery.
A week later, a CT showed a large collection in his pelvis due to a leak from the anastomosis (the join in the bowel). Mr B was treated with IV antibiotics and his bowel was drained several times but he remained seriously unwell and in severe pain. A further operation discovered faeces throughout his abdomen due to a leak. A further section of his bowel was then removed and a stoma was formed. Mr B's abdomen had to be left open following the operation and he required care in ITU.
Over the following month, Mr B needed more than 10 procedures on his abdomen and in July 2012, he had yet another operation to repair his abdominal wall which also became badly infected and he needed yet more operations. He was eventually discharged from hospital at the end of August 2012, but his symptoms continued and in November 2012 he was referred to St Mark's Hospital.
In May 2013 Mr B underwent a further operation to treat a fistula of the bowel, reverse the stoma and repair the abdominal wall. After the operation Mr B suffered an abdominal collection and breakdown of the wound. He was discharged with an open abdominal wound at the end of June 2013 which took months to heal.
In February 2015 and April 2015 Mr B needed further operations. He now suffers permanent abdominal pain which greatly restricts his movement. He suffers with episodes of bowel and bladder incontinence, severe depression and chronic fatigue. At times, he is unable to get out of bed. He has been unable to return to full time work since the operation in 2012 and cannot properly look after his two young sons. Once instructed, we asked experts to investigate the care Mr B received. The colorectal surgery expert was particularly critical of the care provided at Darent Valley Hospital and the decision to offer him surgery in the first place.
Despite this, the trust refused to admit liability and defended the claim in full. The defence made unfounded allegations that Mr B had presented a rehearsed and incorrect history of his symptoms to the surgeons to persuade them to offer him surgery. Negotiations eventually ended in an agreed settlement for £310,000.
At the conclusion of the claim, Mr B said:
"I chose Fieldfisher over a number of different solicitors - initially a very difficult choice, but one I couldn't have been more pleased with. Everybody representing Fieldfisher during my case has always been highly professional and courteous. I cannot recommend the team highly enough.
It took a long time for me to overcome my misgivings of the legal profession following bad experiences in the past, but Helen Thompson has been terrific, even when I have been very low and difficult to deal with. Helen clearly not only cares about her case work but has the compassion to care about the person behind the name on the documents.
Helen has always been able to explain everything to both me and my family and guided us through the process step by step. I cannot thank her enough and am more than happy to say that I trust Helen implicitly and know that she will go on to do great work and help many, many more people in the future."
Image: Claire Stretch [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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