Catalogue Of Hospital Errors Leaves Pensioner With Brain Injury

Two Years Of Pain & Suffering As Hospital Admits Delays In Treatment

14.12.2010

A 73 year old Worcester man, who has been left with a permanent brain injury after suffering a catalogue of hospital errors, has received a substantial out of court settlement.

Sydney Ashford had to wait more than two years for a cancerous kidney tumour to be diagnosed and treated. When he was finally operated on, complications during surgery led to a main vein being cut. Mr Ashford received more than 25 units of blood and spent three days in intensive care. He believes errors in the way the surgeon attempted to control the bleeding caused him to suffer a permanent brain injury.

Worcestershire Acute Hospital NHS Trust has now admitted liability for the delay in treatment but has refused to accept that the way in which the catastrophic bleeding was handled during surgery was negligent.

Now, a medical negligence expert at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors is calling for lessons to be learned and for the Trust to instigate a review of its administrative systems to ensure patients are not ‘lost in the system’.

Mr Ashford, who is married with four children, had been diagnosed, more than 40 years previously, as having a non-functioning shrunken right kidney.

As the condition was not causing him any problems or pain, it was decided not to operate at the time. However in June 2004, Mr Ashford began to suffer pain in the right side of his body.

His GP referred him to Worcester Royal Hospital and a CT scan revealed a cyst on his right kidney.

Mr Ashford was told he would receive a follow up appointment in around four weeks, but four months on, he had heard nothing and so contacted the hospital. Phone calls to the hospital revealed that his name was seemingly nowhere to be found in the system and his records had been lost.

In December 2004, Mr Ashford was finally called back for treatment and he underwent an operation to have fluid removed from the cyst. However, by February 2005 he was again in considerable pain and returned to hospital for a further scan which confirmed the cyst had grown back and was now so large that it was pushing up against his diaphragm and lungs causing difficulty in him breathing.

Despite this, further investigative tests at both Worcester and Kidderminster hospitals reported back ‘inconclusive’ results. His condition deteriorated further and over the course of the next eight months he suffered severe bleeding whilst passing urine.

Numerous out patient appointments, further tests and x-rays finally resulted in him being booked in for surgery at the Alexandra Hospital, Redditch on 13th March 2006.

The kidney cyst, which was surgically removed, was subsequently found to be cancerous and not benign as doctors had assumed.  However, worse was still to come. During the operation, whilst surgeons were cutting away the cyst, they noticed bleeding and on further investigation, realised they had cut through a major vein (the Inferior Vena Cava). 

Records of the operation indicated that the surgeon clamped across the vein and then cut it completely, an act experts believe led to the blood supply being reduced to Mr Ashford’s brain and caused him to suffer a permanent brain injury.  A specialist vascular surgeon was called as an emergency to perform life-saving surgery to repair the vein and restore Mr Ashford’s circulation.

Guy Forster, a medical negligence expert at Irwin Mitchell, who represented Sydney Ashford, explained: “Sydney was let down very badly indeed. Over the course of two years there were numerous errors in judgment by individual doctors and delays on the part of the Trust.

“A failure to promptly treat the cyst which was causing such severe pains and debilitating problems for more than two years, or to consider from the outset that the cyst might in fact be malignant, is wholly unacceptable and the Trust has fully admitted that the standard of care Mr Ashford received fell way below that which he should have received.

“Although the Trust has not accepted that the surgery performed in March 2006 was negligent, independent experts have been at a loss to explain why the surgeon would have attempted to control the bleeding in the manner that he did.

“As a result of the brain injury Sydney sustained, his short term memory and concentration are now very poor and he is now very reliant upon his wife, Pamela.”

Mr Ashford, a former mechanic and toolmaker, commented: “Before this happened, I was very fit and independent. Even though I was retired I kept busy round the house and even still managed to service my own car. Now I’m very limited in what I can do and so many day to day tasks are difficult.

“I have difficulty holding a pen and am unable to write properly. I can no longer do many DIY jobs around the house because I cannot handle tools any more

“My speech and language has been affected since the operation. I have difficulty pronouncing words and often say things the wrong way round, for example ‘nat sav’ rather than ‘sat nav.’

“I forget conversations easily and it’s been very difficult for both my wife and I because initially I could not accept that my memory was as bad as it was.

“I just hope that the Trust has learned its lessons from what happened to me because I would hate anyone else to suffer as I have.”