Medical Negligence Lawyers And Family Support Major Awareness Campaign
A husband whose wife has been left permanently disabled following a delay in diagnosing a life-threatening brain condition has spoken out as he backs a major awareness campaign.
Janice Millward, from Uckfield, was diagnosed with viral encephalitis nearly a week after being admitted to Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton.
The 69-year-old spent around seven weeks in intensive care and 18 months in brain rehabilitation units before being admitted to a care home where she remains.
Janice, a mum-of-two and grandmother-of-three has severe cognitive and communication problems, is unsteady on her feet and needs help in all aspects of caring for herself.
Medical negligence lawyers investigate encephalitis diagnosis
Her husband of 50 years, Brian, 70, has instructed expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate her hospital care and fund the specialist care and therapies she requires.
University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation has admitted partial liability on behalf of the former Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust. It admitted that it failed to diagnose Janice’s encephalitis three days before it did and a delay in commencing antiviral medication.
Family support World Encephalitis Day
However, the Trust argues the delays were not responsible for Janice’s severe brain damage and she wouldn’t have made a full recovery. With proceedings served on the Trust and the case heading to the High Court, Brian has spoken for the first time about the impact Janice’s illness has had on her in order to raise awareness about encephalitis. He has joined his legal team at Irwin Mitchell in supporting World Encephalitis Day.
Expert Opinion“Encephalitis can be caused by an infection of the brain, or by the immune system attacking the brain in error. It’s an incredibly dangerous condition which can kill or leave people severely disabled.
“The last few years and attempting to come to terms with how not only Janice’s life but the lives of her family have changed has been incredibly difficult for all the family.
“They continue to have a number of concerns about the care she received in hospital. We’re determined to provide the family with all the answers they deserve and help Janice access the specialist care, therapies and support she requires to live as independently as possible.
“As World Encephalitis Day approaches we are urging for lessons to be learned from this case and, we join Brian in raising awareness of the condition. While dangerous, problems associated with the condition can be avoided or significantly reduced if encephalitis is diagnosed and treated promptly.” Richard Kayser - Partner
Encephalitis: Janice Millward's story
Janice complained of having a headache and feeling nauseous on 27 March, 2018. The following day, Joanne her eldest daughter, met her mum but was concerned that she appeared confused. She took her mum to a GP who referred Janice to hospital. She attended the Princess Royal Hospital in Hayward’s Heath.
Doctors believed she may have suffered a stroke or had an infection, and required a CT scan. The lift at the hospital was broken so she was transferred to Royal Sussex County Hospital.
Despite the doctors considering she may have had a central nervous system infection they continued to treat her as if she had suffered a stroke. They didn’t carry out further investigations to test for an infection.
Janice’s condition continued to deteriorate whilst she remained an inpatient.
On 3 April she was transferred to intensive care following a seizure. Following a MRI scan of her brain and lumbar puncture she was diagnosed with encephalitis. She was not commenced on antiviral medication until the following day.
Husband reveals impact brain condition has had on family
Brian, a former IT communications consultant, who also has another daughter Beverley with Janice, said: “Before all of this Janice was an incredibly sociable person. She enjoyed swimming, cooking and baking. She was active in the Women’s Institute and loved having friends around and entertaining for them.
“We used to enjoy holidays in the sun and enjoyed playing a big part in the grandchildren’s lives. We often looked after them, they would stop over and we would take them away on holiday. Janice loved spoiling them and her life revolved around her family and hobbies.
“Seeing Janice in hospital over the next few days was horrible but we thought she was in the best place.
“However, that was just the start of it. Since then our family hasn’t been the same. The decision to put Janice in a care home was heartbreaking. We really want to bring her home but an appropriate care and rehabilitation package would need to be in place in order to do so. We visit her as often as we’re allowed but this has been made particularly hard over the last two years due to Covid.
“We knew nothing about encephalitis when Janice was taken ill. Had we known then what we know now we’d have asked more questions and pushed for further investigations to be carried out.
“The damage to Janice’s brain happened in just a matter of days but is irreparable. We believe earlier treatment could have prevented this and would have prevented the substantial brain damage Janice has suffered. We hope that by speaking out we can in some way help raise awareness of encephalitis and prevent others being left in the same situation.”
University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation was formed in April 2021 following the merger of Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust and Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Find out more about Janice's story and the signs and symptoms of encephalitis.
Alternatively more information about our expertise in supporting patients and families following diagnosis delays can be found at our dedicated medical negligence section. To speak to an expert contact us or call 0370 1500 100.