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Our clinical negligence team helped a man to recover compensation following the death of his wife.
Mrs X suffered from an incarcerated hiatus hernia which was first detected in an x-ray in 1991. On 6th January 2006 Mrs X developed sudden chest pain below her left breast and around to her neck which was painful when she breathed in. She was seen in A&E at Pinderfields General Hospital, where an x-ray was undertaken and she was then discharged home.
The following day Mrs X returned to A&E having woken in pain. She was noted to have tenderness in the epigastrium. At a ward round on 7th January 2006 it was noted that her pain had subsided overnight and that a chest x-ray showed a large hiatus hernia. The consultant in charge of Mrs X’s care thought that the cause of her problems was intermittent volvulus of the hernia.
On 10th January 2006 Mrs X was referred to Mr White, Consultant Surgeon at Dewsbury General Hospital and she was admitted there on 12th January 2006.
An endoscopy performed on 13th January 2008 showed a normal oesophagus but a large para-oesophageal hernia. On 20th January 2006 a laparoscopic repair was performed.
By the following day Mrs X had developed right and left sided pleural effusions, a build up of fluid in the space surrounding the lungs.
In the early hours of 23rd January 2006 Mrs X was transferred to the High Dependency Unit and a chest drain was placed in the left chest under local anaesthetic and 1400 mls of blood was obtained. At 0230 hours Mrs X’s haemoglobin was noted to be 5.0g and four units of blood were cross-matched. Despite the observations that Mrs X was losing blood at no time was a transfusion provided.
At 0255 hours on 23rd January 2006 Mrs X developed a bradycardia and went into an asystolic cardiac arrest. Resuscitation was not successful and Mrs X was declared dead at 0310 hours. The speed with which Mrs X deteriorated meant that her husband did not have chance to see her one last time before she died.
The post-mortem revealed a substantial left haemothorax. The haemorrhage in the left side of the chest appeared to have been caused by the surgical repair site although a definitive bleeding site could not be identified. As a result of the post-mortem the matter was referred to the Coroner.
The family approached Suzanne Munroe of Irwin Mitchell following the referral of the matter to the Coroner’s Office. At the inquest the consultant responsible for Mrs X’s care was critical of the junior staff who had been attending to Mrs X. Specific criticism was made of the failure to inform him of any of the complications which occurred which prevented him from intervening in her care at such a critical time.
Following the conclusion of the inquest and the recording of a narrative verdict a claim was pursued against the Mid Yorkshire NHS Hospitals Trust.
The claimant alleged that there was a large window of opportunity in which the hospital staff could have intervened to treat Mrs X. The expert evidence obtained showed that had she received appropriate treatment on the 22nd January she would have lived for approximately another week allowing her husband and family to say goodbye instead of Mrs X effectively being left to bleed to death.
The claim was settled for £10,000. The sum received was the statutory bereavement award that Mrs X’s husband was entitled to as a result of the failure to treat the deceased.
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