Disabled Man And Legal Team Raising Awareness Of Rare Life-Changing Spinal Condition
A Rotherham man who had to give up working as a crane operator after being diagnosed with a rare spinal condition has spoken of the challenges he faces as he backs an upcoming awareness campaign.
Philip Peet developed severe back pain in August 2015. Shortly afterwards, he began complaining of numbness in his groin area. He was taken to Rotherham Hospital by ambulance and underwent an MRI scan. Philip was subsequently transferred to Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, where he was diagnosed with cauda equina syndrome, a condition where the nerves in the lower back become severely compressed.
Philip, of Brampton Bierlow, underwent decompression surgery, but was left with life-changing disabilities including weakness in both his legs. He was forced to give up his job as a crane operator.
Following his diagnosis, Philip instructed specialist medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the care he received under the Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust and the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which run the hospitals he was treated in. The legal experts are also helping Philip access the specialist support and rehabilitation he now requires to live his life as best he can.
Irwin Mitchell is part of a legal panel established by the Cauda Equina Syndrome Association (CESA) with the aim of improving access to advice and support for sufferers of the condition. With the charity’s awareness day approaching on 1 October, Philip, 59, is now joining with his lawyers to help increase knowledge of the condition and the effects it can have.
Expert Opinion“It’s been five years since Philip was diagnosed with cauda equina syndrome and he still continues to suffer the devastating effects of the condition every day.
Understandably, Philip is desperate to know if more could have been done when he first presented at the hospital with his symptoms and we are now investigating his concerns.
If during the course of our investigations any issues are identified, it is important that lessons are learned to improve patient care.
In the meantime, the Cauda Equina Syndrome Association’s awareness day provides the perfect opportunity for Philip to share his story and raise awareness of the condition which is still widely unknown about.”
Anna Stacey - Senior Associate Solicitor & Team Leader
Philip woke on the morning of 9 August, 2015, to severe back pain. He told his legal team he was unable to stand and had to crawl to the bathroom. He also said “something didn’t feel right” in his groin area.
He called 111 and was taken to the A&E department at Rotherham Hospital by ambulance that afternoon.
Philip was seen by a doctor who advised that he thought he had a compressed nerve in his back. He underwent an MRI, and was urgently transferred to Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital. He was told that he had damage to the discs and nerves in his spine, and was taken for surgery.
Following the operation, Philip did not regain the feeling in his groin area. As a result, he continues to suffer significant issues with his bowel and bladder functions.
He was transferred back to Rotherham Hospital on 26 August and was discharged on 2 September 2015.
Five years on, Philip has been unable to return to work as a crane operator, which he had done for 12 years prior to his diagnosis. He continues to suffer from numbness in his legs and feet, and struggles with everyday tasks.
Philip lives on his own, and is supported by his partner Rosemary and his three grown up children.
He said: “My life has totally changed in the last five years. I had an operation on my back in 2004 so I expected that my recovery this time around would be similar, but it couldn’t have been more different.
“I no longer have back pain, and haven’t done since the surgery, but I now experience constant pain in my lower legs, feet and hamstrings, along with levels of numbness. The pain can be bad at night, disturbing my sleep, and is worse when the weather is cold.
“I have no feeling at all in my groin area, and I suffer with bladder and bowel problems which are particularly distressing to cope with.
“As a result of the cauda equina, I have changed a lot as a person. I always considered myself to be an optimistic and sociable character, but I am now irritable and impatient, and I am extremely self-conscious when I go out. Due to the fact I am unsteady on my feet, there have been occasions when people have thought I was drunk, which I found really embarrassing.
“I have found it very difficult to come to terms with the fact I now have a disability and I worry about what the future may bring for me. But, while I can’t change what has happened to me, I am so grateful for the support I have had from Rosemary and my family – I wouldn’t have got through everything without them.
“In the meantime, I hope that by sharing my story and raising awareness of this condition, I might be able to stop this from happening to anyone else.”
According to the CESA, more than 1,000 cases of cauda equina syndrome are recorded in UK spinal centres every year. The charity estimates there are three cases for each officially recorded, suggesting thousands are living with the condition who may be entitled to help. Its awareness day on 1 October is being held to raise awareness of the symptoms of cauda equine syndrome and the support available.
‘Red flags’ include lower back pain, sciatica and leg weakness as well as bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction. Anyone with symptoms should seek medical attention, particularly if pain is accompanied by tingling or numbness around the bottom and started after an accident.
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