RAF Veteran Left ‘Virtually Housebound’ Instructs Lawyers Following Surgery At Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital
A Norfolk man left with life-changing injuries following a ‘routine’ gallbladder day procedure is speaking out on the devastating impact the surgery has had on him and his family.
Paul Tooth underwent a cholecystectomy in January 2020 to remove his gallbladder at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Afterwards, he immediately complained of extreme and excruciating pain, which prompted a further procedure the following day when he was told ‘everything appeared normal’.
Injury occurs during gallbladder surgery
A week later, Paul was advised by the surgeon, Camilo Valero, who had carried out the initial procedure, that he had suffered an injury. Paul is now facing the prospect of a possible liver transplant.
Following the diagnosis, Paul, 63, from Norwich, instructed specialist medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate his treatment under the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust admits liability
The Trust has admitted liability for the error, for the standard of care provided when the cholecystectomy was performed and also the post-operative care.
A letter sent by the Trust to Paul said a review carried out by the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) had stated his injury was “of concern and clinically significant.” It highlighted that the RCS review had been requested as a result of it coming to light that there were “three cases of potentially serious concern involving the same surgeon” and that “all of the surgeries took place within a five-day period in January 2020” and “involved the same type of surgery.” Mr Valero is under investigation but continues to practice at the NNUH.
The RCS subsequently made recommendations for improvements to be made to the NNUH cholecystectomy service as a whole, however Paul remains concerned that the Trust has failed to address specific areas of concern detailed in the Root Cause Analysis report.
Surgeon Camilo Valero apologises
Paul received a letter of apology from Mr Valero nine months after the error.
Expert Opinion“Paul has been through a terrible ordeal following what was meant to be a routine gallbladder operation.
He now faces a future of uncertainty and the prospect of a possible liver transplant and further surgery which carries serious risks.
His family have been a huge support to him, but they continue to be deeply affected by Paul’s injury and the impact it has had on his physical and mental health.
Unfortunately, we can’t turn back the clock and change what has happened to Paul. Whilst we appreciate that recommendations were made for improvements, we are concerned that these do not go far enough. We are seeking reassurances that there has been a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances of Paul’s injuries so that everything can be done as soon as possible to improve patient care and prevent anyone else from suffering the way Paul and the other two cases have.”
Guy Forster - Partner
Medical negligence: Paul Tooth's story
Paul underwent the cholecystectomy in January last year following the removal of gallstones in 2019.
Following his injury, which involved the removal of not only his gallbladder but also his common bile duct, hepatic duct and damaged part of his liver, he was transferred to a specialist hospital for repair surgery. Unfortunately, after a complex surgery exceeding five hours the family were told the repair attempt was impossible.
Instead, stomach drains were inserted to collect the bile leaking from the injury. He also has a Nasojejunal tube to recycle the bile back into his body. Paul spent six weeks in the specialist hospital before being discharged, where he is now cared for at home by a team of community nurses and his wife. He has been readmitted several times in the past year, suffering with abdominal pain and infection.
Former RAF Engineer faces further surgery
A former RAF Avionics engineer, Paul lives with his wife, has two children and five grandchildren.
He said: “In order to survive daily, bile is constantly drained via a tube in my abdomen and collected in a bag. It is then transferred to another bag and pumped back into my body through a tube up my nose.
“I have been doing this constantly since last March, having to drain the bag every four to five hours. It means I can never get a full night’s sleep, and this is how it will be for the foreseeable future, if not for the rest of my life.
“My health has deteriorated a lot in the past year. I have lost a lot of weight to the point where my grandchildren barely recognise me. I feel weak, am virtually housebound and in constant pain. My mental health is also suffering, and my wife is in absolute bits.
“To make matters worse, my daughter lives in Australia and cannot visit me due to Covid-19 restrictions. It is a constant worry that I may never see or hold her again. The whole experience has been nothing short of devastating, for both me and my family.
“I now have the daunting prospect of further surgeries, which have no guarantee of success. I have been offered an operation to have two thirds of my liver removed and my intestines ‘replumbed’, so my liver can be reconnected to my bowel. However there is a high chance I could end up in a worse condition than I am now. I have asked to be considered for a liver transplant.
“My life has changed forever. I am pretty much housebound now and just spend my days in the conservatory looking out the window. I still struggle to believe that I went into hospital to undergo a day procedure that should have been straightforward and routine, and I am now in this devastating position."
Patient wants to hear from others who underwent gallbladder surgery performed by Camilo Valero
Paul added: “I have many questions still unanswered, but the Trust is not prepared to engage with me directly to address them. It is the least they can do after the harm the surgeon caused, but instead I face a battle for answers through my solicitors and by appealing to other authorities to help. I would also like to make contact with the other two victims injured in January 2020.
“I know there is nothing I can do to change what I have been through, but I want everyone to know my story to help stop it from happening to anyone else. I would not wish this on my worst enemy.
“All I can hope for now is that there is some light at the end of my very dark tunnel and I get to spend quality time with my family.”