Widower Speaks Of Loss As Medical Negligence Experts At Irwin Mitchell Secure Settlement For Family
A family has received a £415,000 settlement after an NHS Trust admitted that a mum died as a result of a ’flesh-eating disease’ doctors failed to diagnose.
Helen Edgar died aged 41 just one week after first attending hospital complaining of shoulder pain she thought may have resulted from stretching to reach a cupboard.
However, over the coming days doctors at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust failed to diagnose and treat the mum-of-two for the rare bacterial infection necrotising fasciitis – a form of flesh-eating disease. The infection was finally diagnosed but she died on 26 May, 2013, from multiple organ failure caused by necrotising fasciitis.
Following her death, Helen’s family, of Stowmarket, Suffolk, instructed expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate her care and help secure the futures of her children, Kyle, 24, and 17-year-old Kayleigh.
Now at a hearing yesterday in the High Court, a Judge approved a settlement from the NHS Trust which admitted full liability that delays in diagnosing and treating the infection constituted a failure in the duty of care it should have provided to Helen.
Alexandra Winch, is a specialist medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s London office, representing the family.
Expert OpinionThe failure of doctors to diagnose Helen’s necrotising fasciitis and debride the affected tissue had catastrophic consequences for the family.
“Four years on they are still struggling to come to terms with how, just days after complaining of shoulder pain, a much-loved wife and mum died.
“Hospitals have a duty of care to look after patients and tragically, in Helen’s case, the level of care she received fell below what people should expect.
“Nothing can make up for the family’s loss or bring Helen back but we are grateful that the Trust has admitted liability. It now vital that the Trust ensures measures are in place to prevent a repeat of Helen’s unnecessary death and the subsequent pain the family have gone through.” Alexandra Winch - Associate Solicitor
Helen met her husband Ian in 1988 and the pair married in 1993.
In her spare time she enjoyed crochet and knitting and would make clothes for any grandchildren she may have in the future. She also loved enjoying her home and garden.
Ian, 48, a carpenter for MLD Suffolk District Council, spoke of how their “extremely close family did absolutely everything together” before Helen’s death.
He added: “Helen was the complete bedrock of our family and she held everything together. It is difficult to put into words the devastating effect Helen’s death has had on our family.
“I have been completely traumatised by the sudden loss of my wife and I cannot see an end to the pain and suffering that I encounter every day.
“I was with her throughout the whole time she was in hospital. Although I kept pleading for the hospital staff to help they did not seem to listen and I felt as though I was standing watching her die.
“I still have visions of Helen suffering in hospital. The images of her last days when the pain was so visible will not leave me for the rest of my life.
“I have lost my wife and my best friend and my children have lost their loving and caring mum.
“It has been very difficult for me to come to terms with Helen’s death because she could still be here with us today had it not been for the hospital’s negligence. We had the rest of our lives to spend together which has now been snatched away from us.
“Nothing can turn the clock back. I just hope that lessons have been learned so no other families have to endure the heart-break we have had to go through following Helen’s death.”
On 18 May, 2013, Helen suddenly became ill, complaining of a headache and severe pain under her right arm. She suffered sickness, diarrhoea and a fever.
The following afternoon she attended the accident and emergency department at West Suffolk Hospital, complaining of pain in moving her right arm. She was diagnosed with having a sprain and sent home with anti-inflammatory drugs.
She returned to hospital again the next night and admitted as the shoulder and breast pain had worsened and she was suffering from sickness and diarrhoea. Helen was treated for suspected blood clots.
Over the coming hours Helen’s condition worsened and her temperature and heart rate increased. She was admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit. Just before midday on 21 May she was sent for a CT scan as a possible diagnosis of necrotising fasciitis was discussed among doctors. She underwent exploratory surgery and this theory was rejected.
Senior doctors twice dismissed a possible diagnosis of necrotising fasciitis on 24 May and it was not until the early hours of 25 May that concerns were raised that Helen may be suffering from the infection.
That afternoon she was transferred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge where exploratory surgery found extensive necrotising fasciitis in Helen’s right side of her body and lower left abdomen. The infection was treated, however, her condition worsened and she died just before 2am on 26 May, 2013.
Necrotising fasciitis is a rare but serious bacterial infection that affects the tissue beneath the skin, muscles and organs.
It is sometimes called the ‘flesh-eating disease’. Although bacteria does not ‘eat flesh’ they release toxins that damage tissue. If not treated quickly the bacteria can spread through the body and can lead to serious problems including sepsis and organ failure.
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