Medical Error Leaves Engineer Facing A Lifetime Of Care

Man Suffers Brain Injury Following Anaesthetic Mistake


The wife of a Bristol engineer who survived a 30-foot fall at work only to suffer a devastating brain injury as a result of medical errors that left him suffocating during surgery has today supported calls for lessons to be learnt.

David Eslick (46), a self-employed heating engineer from Knowle was being treated at North Bristol NHS Trust after a terrifying fall when he inhaled the contents of his stomach – porridge which he had eaten for breakfast that morning - into his lungs, whilst being put under anaesthetic.

Now his lawyer, medical law and patient’s rights expert Kate Easy from Irwin Mitchell solicitors in Bristol, is urging the Trust to demonstrate it has learnt from the errors made, after it admitted that the wrong anaesthetic technique was used which resulted in the injury.

The father of one plummeted 30-foot when a tile became lose on the roof where he was working in June 2009. Lucky to be alive he was rushed to hospital where doctors confirmed that he had fractured his spine, leg and ankle.

After responding well to the emergency treatment David was taken back into surgery the following day for a routine operation on his ankle. But when wife Juliette (40) visited him later that day she was taken to ITU where she found her husband on a ventilator. He remained in a coma for five weeks.

Kate Easy said: “Although David suffered serious leg and back injuries medical experts were confident that he would have made a very good recovery following the initial surgery, even positive that he would be able to return to the job he loved. Instead, two years on, he is heavily dependent on his family for support and will never be able to live independently again.

“Though it is a huge relief to both David, and his family, that the Trust has admitted fault it is now imperative that lessons are learnt and improvements made to prevent future suffering.”

After regaining consciousness David was transferred to the stroke unit at the Bristol Royal Infirmary where he started rehabilitation. Unable to swallow or speak normally he underwent months of painful rehabilitation and regained some movement in the left side of his body. But his left hand is still paralysed and he suffers various difficulties with that side of his body and significant memory problems.

Juliette said: “Staff told me that David was paralysed and a head scan showed that he had no movement on the left side of his body and had suffered brain damage, most likely as a result of a stroke caused by breathing the porridge into his lungs.

“Although David suffered serious injuries in his fall the real challenges he now faces for the rest of his life are caused by his brain injury. I just want assurances that lessons have been learnt so that every possible step is taken to prevent anyone suffering as we have going forward.”

David, who had run his own heating engineering business in Bristol, was forced to dissolve the company as a result of his injuries. He suffers from restricted short term memory and still has significant left sided physical difficulties. His speech, though improved, remains slurred, quiet and croaky.

Kate Easy from Irwin Mitchell said: “There is no escaping the fact that as a result of the basic errors made whilst administering the anaesthetic a man’s life has been turned upside down. It is now a question of ensuring that David has access to the care and rehabilitation he needs so that he, and his family, can live as normal a life as possible in spite of his injuries.”

Juliette said: “David’s brain injury has been devastating. We have been married for 13 years and have a 10-year-old son, Scott.

“We now have financial difficulties due to David having to give up work. Since the brain injury his personality has changed and it’s been very tough trying to carry on and shoulder the day to day responsibilities of running the home by myself. 

“At the end of the day David is my husband. I love him very much and I know if I had been in a similar position he would have done the same for me. Any kind of brain injury is difficult to deal with but there is help available from specialists and charities and more needs to be done to make sure that people with brain injuries and their families get information and support at the earliest opportunity.”