Mum Left Disabled By ‘Catastrophic Error’ Wins Six Year Battle For Justice

Medical Law Experts Secure Multi-Million Pound Care Package For Life

29.01.2013

A mum-of-two admitted to hospital for a routine operation but told within days that she would never walk again because of a ‘catastrophic error’ in her treatment has been granted a multi-million-pound care package to fund a lifetime of support and rehabilitation.

Hazel Spence, 35, was left ‘totally distraught’ after a doctor at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham left her almost completely paralysed from the waist down in 2006 when he flushed a drain that had become blocked whilst removing fluid from her spine, causing irreparable damage.

Medical Law experts at Irwin Mitchell have now secured the former beauty therapist, from Wolverhampton, a substantial seven-figure settlement after the University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust admitted responsibility for the critical mistakes made during Hazel’s care.

Specialists at the firm said the settlement will now allow her and her two children Dante, 15, and Kyishane, 11, to move into a specially adapted home, to cover costs of childcare and to fund the rehabilitation and support she will need for life.

Tim Deeming, a medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office representing Hazel, said: “It is devastating that Hazel, a previously fit and healthy woman, now faces a lifetime of care because of a catastrophic error.

“It is particularly heartbreaking as the operation had gone well and it was Hazel’s after care that let her down. Sadly, every year we are contacted by patients across the country who are negligently cared for following surgery.”

Hazel was admitted to QE Hospital in 2006 to have a benign cyst removed between her shoulder blades. The operation went well and a drain was put into her lower back to remove fluid.

Two days later, a junior doctor said the drain should have removed a lot more fluid than it had, meaning it was probably blocked and asked Hazel to lay on her side so he could flush the drain to unblock it. If he had removed it and replaced it, as independent experts recommend, Hazel would have left hospital, fully recovered within days.

Hazel said: “The first time he flushed it I felt my right leg pulling. I told him this but he flushed it again. He then tried to pull the drain out a little with his fingers and when this didn’t work, he used forceps. I screamed out in pain and told him to stop because it felt like something had been ripped out of my back.”

Within days Hazel lost feeling in her legs, was unable to walk and lost complete bladder and bowel control. She was sent for an urgent MRI scan and another operation to assess the damage to her spine that the flushing had caused.

Unfortunately the damage was permanent and six years on Hazel remains reliant on a wheelchair which she at times has to be strapped into because of spasms in her legs. Her mother helps look after the children and she has a team of carers to provide support.

Tim Deeming added: “We are supporting Hazel to help her achieve as much independence as possible and the care and rehabilitation package will help. The settlement means she will finally be able to move into a specially adapted house with her two children and make a fresh start.

“We have repeatedly called for patient safety to be a top priority across the NHS. Hospital trusts must ensure staff are fully trained in the guidelines surrounding procedures and that junior members of staff are supervised to ensure they are making the correct decision and not making such catastrophic errors.”

Hazel added: “The last six years have been absolutely horrendous as I’ve struggled to come to terms with the fact my life will never be the same again and I can no longer do simple everyday tasks that get taken for granted. At times I’ve been totally distraught.

“It’s been heartbreaking to see my children struggle to understand why their mum can no longer play with them and chase them round the garden and my mum’s life has also changed forever as I’ve had to rely on her for so much support.

“Over the years I’ve regularly fallen out of my wheelchair because my legs have spasms that I can’t control and it became very dangerous. It’s been humiliating and at times I’ve felt like I’ve lost my dignity.

“I have been very angry about what happened. The wrong decision made by that junior doctor ruined my life. Sadly, nothing can reverse what happened but I can now look to the future knowing the settlement means my family and I can move into a house that is wheelchair accessible and we will have the support and care we need to live life again rather than battling each day.”