Charlotte, who is aged 65, was admitted to hospital for an operation to remove a mass from her pancreas. During the operation an epidural catheter was used for pain relief. After this had been removed Charlotte repeatedly complained of pain at the epidural site. Despite signs that she may have an infection, no action was taken and Charlotte was discharged from hospital.
Charlotte was readmitted to hospital when she lost feeling in her legs. However by this time it was too late for surgery to help her. A scan revealed a large epidural abscess and a swab confirmed that Charlotte had MRSA. The infection damaged the nerves in her spine and Charlotte is now paralysed below the waist, and has to use a wheelchair. She requires help with her personal care and all the household chores. She suffers from severe pain and is doubly incontinent.
Early on in her claim Irwin Mitchell’s client support manager, Anne Luttman-Johnson, went to visit Charlotte to help her with practical aspects of coping with a spinal cord injury. Anne is herself spinal cord injured and was able to provide a great deal of support and advice to Charlotte, including helping her to find a suitable powered wheelchair and adapted car.
Charlotte’s home was not suitable for her, so Anne also helped her to look for a bungalow so that she was able to get around her whole house in a wheelchair easily. Prior to her hospital admission Charlotte had retired but she was still very active in her local community. Anne encouraged her to continue her involvement in local issues, including the issue of disabled access in her local area.
The hospital admitted that they failed to investigate the source of Charlotte’s pain and infection and that she should not have been discharged when she was. It was also admitted that this resulted in a delay in referral for an MRI scan and that had an earlier scan been performed the abscess would have been effectively treated with antibiotics or earlier surgery. This treatment would have avoided the paralysis.
Charlotte was awarded a lump sum payment of £1.6m and she will receive annual payments of around £170,000 for the rest of her life. This will ensure that she can buy the specialist equipment that she needs and she can also afford to pay for help and care, so she can continue to lead an active life.
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