Crohn’s Disease Sufferer Takes Legal Action After Developing Bowel Leak

Medical Negligence Specialists Instructed To Investigate Post-Operative Care At James Cook University Hospital

09.11.2015

Specialist medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell are investigating the treatment and care received by a Richmond man while at a Middlesbrough hospital after he developed a post-operative leak in his bowel which led to him spending almost a year in hospital and has left him unable to work.

Graeme Cross, 31, from Richmond, in North Yorkshire, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2003 aged just 19 after experiencing sudden weight loss. Graeme’s symptoms were severe enough to need medication and surgery to manage his condition.

His treatment was initially managed by a hospital in Darlington but while his surgeon was abroad in 2012, his care was transferred to James Cook University Hospital. Graeme started to suffer severe abdominal pain, which was thought to be a bowel obstruction and a decision was made in July 2012 that surgical intervention was required.

He underwent stricturoplasty surgery on 8 July 2012, following which he suffered an internal leak in his bowel which was not detected for nine days. By the time the leak was identified Graeme had developed life-threatening sepsis and required urgent surgery to remove his damaged bowel and leave him with a stoma.

Throughout those nine days Graeme suffered significant pain, his body became grossly swollen and he was vomiting blood and faeces.

Graeme has now instructed specialist medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the standard of care that he received at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and establish why the leak was not detected and treated earlier, which he feels would have avoided the need for him to receive hospital treatment until June 2013 and left him with life changing symptoms.

His health remains very fragile as he has been left weak by the events following his surgery in 2012. In addition to numerous physical problems, Graeme has been diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder related to his treatment.

Michelle Armstrong, an expert medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office representing him, said:

Expert Opinion
“Graeme and his family are concerned about the care he received and his health remains a significant concern since his treatment in 2012.

“We are investigating whether why things went so badly wrong for Graeme and whether more could or should have been done to spot and treat the leak following surgery in July 2012. His family also have concerns over the way he was looked after on the wards.

“Patient safety should be the number one priority of all those involved in healthcare and Graeme and his family just want answers and reassurances that any failures in his care are highlighted so that lessons that can be learnt from his case to prevent others suffering in a similar way in future.”
Michelle Armstrong, Solicitor

Graeme, from Richmond, said: “The past few years have been an absolute nightmare. After the operation I just felt like me and my mum who is a trained nurse were the ones having to push the staff all the time to help me when it was clear that something wasn’t right. The pain when I was being moved the day after surgery was just agony and over the next few days I believed I was going to die. It was clear to me that something was seriously wrong and it was frightening that no one appeared to take this seriously.

“It’s clearly a sensitive and sometimes embarrassing illness when you have bowel problems but instead of protecting my dignity, the general care I received left me feeling humiliated and dismissed.

“I want to understand whether more could have been done to treat the leak sooner and for the care I received to be investigated properly. I would hate others to go through the ordeal I have, so hopefully Irwin Mitchell’s investigations will identify if improvements can be made.”

When it was first decided that Graeme needed surgery at James Cook University Hospital his surgeon was on leave. So the operation was delayed until his return the following weekend on 8 July 2012. The day after the operation Graeme was being assisted by two physiotherapists when he felt a sudden searing pain in his abdomen causing him to scream out in pain.

That evening and in the early hours of the following day he experienced a severe crushing pain, became breathless and developed a large swelling in his abdomen which restricted his movement. Between the 10 and 18 July 2012 Graeme was vomiting black brown fluid, which smelt of faeces.

Graeme’s family also had concerns about the ward staff whom they felt were unsympathetic, slow to respond to requests for help and left Graeme repeatedly having to ask for pain relief, dismissing his pain and not looking into why he was in so much pain.

By 17 July 2012 Graeme’s abdomen was severely swollen and a scan showed that there was an internal leak. During surgery the next day medical staff found faecal matter in his abdomen which was cleaned out but by then Graeme had already developed severe sepsis. His parents were told that he may not survive the next 24 hours but he pulled through and spent time in the intensive care unit and then the high dependency unit.

Graeme was discharged home on 9 August 2012 despite his wound being partially open. His parents, both trained health professionals, were very concerned about his risk of infection. Just three days later Graeme was re-admitted due to wound infection and he was kept in hospital until 28 August 2012.

He had extreme difficulties with nutrition, due to the amount of bowel which was removed when the leak was identified. Despite an insatiable appetite he was not gaining weight as he could not properly absorb nutrients, which led to numerous back to back hospital admissions over the next few months and resulted in him having to be fed by a tube directly into his veins and his care was transferred to Freeman Hospital in Newcastle in order to manage his complex problems.

Graeme suffered from numerous infections and was eventually discharged from hospital care on 1 June 2013. Since then he has required further lengthy surgery, taking muscle from his thigh to try and reconstruct his abdomen. Graeme continues to struggle with the psychological impact of the events of his surgery in 2012.