Law Firm Backs Action For Brain Injury Week 2012

Experts Welcome Headway Campaign

14.05.2012

Specialist lawyers representing many people needing lifetime care and rehabilitation after being seriously injured are raising awareness of the devastating impact that brain injuries can have as they support Action For Brain Injury Week 2012.

The awareness week (14-20 May) is organised by the charity Headway – the Brain Injury Association with the focus for 2012 to highlight the support available for those caring for someone with a brain injury.

Law firm Irwin Mitchell, which has won the Rehabilitation First Award for their work with brain injured clients for four consecutive years, is supporting Headway across the country by holding a series of fundraising events and activities.

Around 135,000 people are admitted to hospital each year because of brain injuries and it is estimated that around 500,000 people in the UK are living with long term disabilities as a result of traumatic brain injury.

Lisa Jordan, a Partner at Irwin Mitchell specialising in helping people who have suffered serious injuries, said: “Brain injuries can have such a devastating effect on both individuals and their families. The most serious injuries can cause long term disability leaving those injured needing 24 hour care and rehabilitation for life.

“That’s why Action for Brain Injury Week is so important to highlight the practical support available to those who need help from charities such as Headway and especially to those caring for people with acquired brain injury, who are all too often overlooked.

"Our input in representing our clients can help to significantly improve the quality of life for family carers when we access support for ongoing recovery such as therapy, suitable housing, transport, aids and equipment, and above all respite and additional care support.

“We support the aims of Headway’s campaign for carers and other brain injury groups and volunteers across Birmingham, and indeed several of our staff regularly volunteer to work with local brain injury support groups and charities.”

Case Study – John Tunney

The wife of a man who was left with severe brain damage when doctors removed part of his brain tissue instead of a tumour is speaking out about the impact it’s had on their lives in support of Action for Brain Injury Week.

As a result of the surgical blunder former paramedic John Tunney has been left with a devastating brain injury which affects virtually every aspect of his day to day life.  To make matters worse blood tests to check John’s hormone levels were not reviewed before the surgery was carried out which would have revealed that he was suffering from a non-cancerous condition that medication could have treated.

He is now registered partially sighted, has problems walking unaided and also suffers memory loss which means he cannot be left alone and requires constant supervision, care and support.

After Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust admitted they were at fault medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell secured for John a substantial seven figure out of court settlement. This is now being managed by their Court of Protection team and will help pay for the lifetime of care and rehabilitation John now needs. The General Medical Council are also investigating the actions of the surgeon involved.

John went to his GP in 2008 with a swollen throat and was initially diagnosed with a thyroid problem before further investigations and an MRI scan uncovered a completely unrelated medical problem, a tumour which was affecting his pituitary gland situated within the brain.

John’s wife, Pamela, explains: “I remember John and I were initially so thankful that this underlying condition had been spotted early. Having clocked up 23 years’ loyal service as a paramedic working for West Midlands Ambulance Service, John had always been an advocate of the NHS and was forever praising the wonderful work carried out by the medical profession.

“It was therefore only natural that he put his complete trust in the surgeon who told him that he needed urgent brain surgery to investigate the tumour they had found on his pituitary gland.”

John, 64, from Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, underwent a biopsy on the pituitary tumour at Coventry’s Walsgrave Hospital on 29th April 2008. However things went badly wrong when, during the operation, he suffered a brain haemorrhage and the surgeon wrongly removed normal brain tissue instead of the tumour.

Timothy Deeming, a medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell in Birmingham, represented John in his legal battle for justice. He said: “The fact that the surgeon managed to remove perfectly healthy tissue rather than a sample of the tumour tissue was, in itself, bad enough.

“However it was then found that the surgery was totally unnecessary. Blood tests to determine hormone levels which had been taken but  not reviewed prior to surgery, would have revealed that John was suffering from a non-cancerous condition known as prolactinoma which could have been controlled with medication alone.

“The failings of the surgeon, Dr Wake, are now the focus of an investigation by the GMC. We also very much hope that the Trust has since reviewed its procedures and retraining has taken place to ensure that lessons are learnt to protect patient safety in the future.”

Pamela Tunney said: “John’s brain injury has also had a huge effect on his personality. Prior to the surgery he was a very easy going person who was always active and on the go. To see the complete change in him now and to know that it was all entirely avoidable is extremely upsetting and very hard to bear.”

John and Pamela had always dreamed of moving to South Wales after he retired from the Ambulance Service. Although the couple have used part of their financial settlement to purchase a specially adapted bungalow near Tenby , Pamela admits that their new life there will never be the idyllic retirement they had both planned and worked hard all their lives to achieve.

She explained: “John’s brain injury is something that we have to deal with every single day of our lives. He gets very frustrated at times that he cannot do the things he once took for granted.

“I’m luckier than most people in my situation because we have close friends who also recently retired to the same area of South Wales. They are very supportive which makes all the difference because being the full time carer of someone with a serious brain injury means that you are always ‘on duty’ and have very little time to do anything for yourself.

“The help and support we have also received from organisations such as (Headway? – include charities etc who have supported John and Pam) has also made it easier to cope with the turmoil of the past four years. I’m pleased that Action For Brain Injury Week highlights the issues facing anyone who has suffered a brain injury and the impact it has on their loved ones lives.

“However the fact remains that our lives have both been completely devastated by this completely avoidable brain injury.

“This mistake is not something that the hospital can just take back. I pray that they don’t make this mistake again and no other family has to experience seeing their husband suffer the pain and loss that John has.”