Social Worker Left Paralysed After Routine Hip Operation

Going into hospital for a routine operation, is normally a straight forward procedure, but unfortunately there are instances when such operations can go wrong. Social worker Stephen Onley, 52, from Bromsgrove in Worcestershire, was left paralysed after doctors failed to monitor him correctly following a routine hip operation in 2010.

Stephen requested not to be given an epidural to control the pain after the surgery because he was aware of the risk of spinal injury linked to this type of anaesthetic through his work with disabled people.

Despite this, he was given the epidural whilst under general anaesthetic. Following the surgery, Stephen suffered a severe drop in blood pressure that was not detected, even though the doctors caring for him would have been well aware that this was possible. By the following day, Stephen’s blood pressure had fallen dangerously low, resulting in a lack of blood to his spinal cord, which caused irreparable damage.

Stephen is now permanently paralysed from the waist down and now relies on a wheelchair. He has had to give up his work and his wife Caroline has to provide the 24-hour care he now needs.

Watch our video with Stephen below:

The couple instructed Irwin Mitchell to help Stephen get access to the support and rehabilitation he desperately needed and are now joining calls from Irwin Mitchell for urgent improvements in the monitoring of patients after surgery to prevent further avoidable injuries in the future.

Stephen commented: “I had spent more than 35 years caring for people with spinal injuries and so I was only too aware that epidurals carry a small, but nevertheless serious, risk of paralysis. As a result of the mistakes the hospital made through not monitoring my blood pressure, I will never walk again. I am now completely reliant upon my wife who has to care for me round the clock and both of our lives have been completely devastated as a result of this avoidable error.”

Tim Deeming, a medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, represents Stephen, and commented: “Stephen and Caroline have been devastated by what has happened. Apart from suffering hip pain, Stephen was a fit and active individual and believed that within a few weeks he would recover and back at work.

“To be told the news that you will spend the rest of your life reliant upon a wheelchair is unimaginable and to discover that this lifelong injury is as a result of a mistake which was entirely avoidable, has been incredibly hard for them both to come to terms with. Birmingham’s Royal Orthopaedic Hospital has a reputation for clinical excellence which is why it is extremely important, both to protect future patient welfare and to provide public reassurance, that the hospital learns important lessons from what happened to Stephen.

"Although no amount of money will ever turn back the clock for Stephen, we will now work with the Trust to provide Stephen with the financial support he requires to pay for the special equipment, care and rehabilitation needed to help rebuild his life.”