Businessman Spent 13 Weeks In Hospital Prior To Death
The widow of a North Wales property developer who died following a series of strokes is raising awareness of the seriousness of the condition as part of a nationwide campaign.
John Sutherland, from Prestatyn, became unwell in July last year, complaining of balance issues. He saw a GP but his condition worsened over the course of a week, with him suffering sickness and high blood pressure.
After he was seen by two ambulance crews and again by a GP, John’s wife Maggie took him to Glan Clywd Hospital. The following day, he was diagnosed as having had two strokes. He went on to have another four strokes and remained in hospital for 13 weeks before he died at the age of 73.
Following John’s death, Maggie instructed medical negligence experts at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the care he received under the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, responsible for running Glan Clywd Hospital, and also the Welsh Ambulance Service, and whether more should have been done to diagnose and treat him sooner.
With World Stroke Day on 29 October, Maggie, 67, is now joining with her legal team in raising awareness of the symptoms of the life-threatening condition which involves the blood supply to part of the brain being cut off.
Expert Opinion“Maggie and her family are understandably still devastated to lose John in such a tragic way.
Through our work we sadly come across many people whose lives are affected by various conditions, and strokes are serious and potentially life-threatening if they aren’t treated soon enough.
We are investigating to see if there are any lessons to be learned to help prevent other families from suffering like John’s has.
Meanwhile, World Stroke Day is the perfect opportunity for Maggie to make people aware of the impact strokes can have on people’s lives.”
David Woolmer - Solicitor
John, who underwent a liver transplant in 2002, began complaining of losing his balance in July 2019. He went to see a GP, who thought it may be an imbalance issue and made him an appointment to get his ears checked.
On 18 July, John told Maggie he had blacked out in the car. The following day, he stood up after watching TV and was ‘violently’ sick. Maggie said he couldn’t get off the floor and his blood pressure was high. He said he hadn’t felt himself for the past week.
Maggie and John’s daughter, Rachael Fisk, called an ambulance, and a paramedic confirmed they were on their way, however another emergency call came through so Rachael was told to call them back if anything changed.
John’s face began to droop and he was slumped to one side. Rachael called the ambulance crew back and told them she thought her dad was having a stroke.
Maggie told her legal team that when the ambulance arrived the crew told the family that there was an eight-hour waiting list to get to A&E so John decided to stay at home. Maggie asked the paramedics if John would have another stroke, and said she was informed that a mini stroke could sometimes lead to another, but not always.
The following morning, John started being sick. Maggie checked his blood pressure again, which was “through the roof.” She called an ambulance and they checked him over and advised his vitals were all okay. She told them about his face drooping and they said they would call a GP from the hospital to come round.
The GP arrived an hour later and called the hospital to get John admitted, but was told there were no beds and a nine-hour wait at A&E. The doctor said he would arrange for John to bypass the queue, and Maggie and Rachael took him to hospital.
John saw a triage nurse, at which point Maggie said he was slurring his words.
She said: “John was so bad at this point that the nurse asked if he had a carer, and I explained to her that he wasn’t normally like this. He was then taken to a corridor where he was left to wait.
“I asked if I could get a trolley for him and was told “if you can find one” – I did, and had to help get him on there myself.
“At around 9pm that evening, a junior doctor diagnosed John with dehydration and I knew this wasn’t right as he had been drinking water. He was unable to walk and Rachael ended up going to the desk and begging for someone to help her dad as he had had a stroke.
“We felt like they just didn’t seem to take any notice of what we were saying and they put him on fluids for the night before planning to send him home the following day.
“We were so distressed, and a nurse that cared for John when he got his liver transplant told us to go home and she would make sure he was okay.
“When I went back in the morning, John was still in the hallway where I had left him, and he had not been given the daily medication he needs for his liver transplant. He was given a scan later that day and we were given the news that he had suffered two strokes, but apparently it was too late to give him medication to stop the stroke getting out of hand. We were devastated.”
Three days later, John underwent another scan, which identified he had suffered another four strokes. By this point, he could no longer eat or swallow, and he couldn’t use his left side. He also developed pneumonia.
Maggie added: “I told the nurse that amoxicillin had never worked for John in the past, but they went ahead and gave him it anyway. He got worse, so they decided to change the antibiotics, which helped.
“To make things worse, he wasn’t given his liver transplant injections for three days. He ended up catching pneumonia five times, and on the fifth time he couldn’t fight anymore.”
John died on 12 October 2019, 13 weeks after being admitted to hospital.
Before falling ill, John was a successful property developer, responsible for around 40 properties. Maggie, who was married to John for 40 years, has now been left to take it on.
She said: “Since losing John, my life has been turned upside down. I have lost my soul mate and the love of my life. Our children and grandchildren have been left without their dad and grandad.
“It was awful to see him deteriorate, he was barely recognisable as my husband by the end and it is still incredibly difficult to accept that he is no longer here.
“While I can’t turn back the clock and change what happened, all I can hope for now is that sharing my story will help raise awareness of what to look out for when it comes to strokes and how early diagnosis is key. I wouldn’t wish another family to go through the pain we have.”
World Stroke Day takes place on 29 October and raises awareness of the prevention and treatment of the condition.