Widower And Medical Negligence Lawyers Call For Lessons To Be Learned
A grandmother died from sepsis after a Hospital Trust ‘missed opportunities’ to remove her damaged bowel which leaked into her body for seven years.
Julie Connell suffered infections and abscesses and was diagnosed with sepsis several times after part of her bowel was damaged during surgery to remove a cancerous kidney at Hereford County Hospital in 2013. The damaged section wasn’t removed but repaired.
Hereford mum Julie complained of ongoing pain for several years
Despite having drainage bags fitted, fluid continued to leak into the mum-of-four and grandmother-of-three’s body. Julie, of Hereford, complained of ongoing pain and issues. She was diagnosed with abdominal sepsis several times for which she was given antibiotics.
After it was found the repair surgery from 2013 had broken down, Julie, underwent further surgery at Hereford County Hospital in 2017 to try and repair her bowel. The damaged section wasn’t removed.
Julie, a chef, continued to suffer symptoms. She died from acute respiratory distress caused by abdominal sepsis in 2020, seven years after her initial surgery.
Medical negligence lawyers asked to investigate
Julie had instructed specialist medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate her care under Wye Valley NHS Trust, which runs Hereford County Hospital. However, she died aged 58, while investigations were ongoing. Following Julie’s death her husband, David, continued the case in her memory.
Hospital Trust admits 'missed opportunities' in Julie's care
The Trust admitted “missed opportunities” to remove part of Julie’s damaged bowel during operations in 2013 and 2017.
Had the injured part of Julie’s bowel been removed in 2013 and she had a stoma fitted, then Julie likely would have avoided the “chronic” abdominal sepsis she suffered over a number of years. She would probably have recovered from surgery “without event” and would have undergone stoma reversal surgery six months later. Julie would likely “not have succumbed to the complications of chronic abdominal sepsis” in August 2020, the Trust admitted.
Julie's husband David supports World Sepsis Day
David has now joined his legal team in calling for lessons to be learned. They’re supporting World Sepsis Day to raise awareness of the dangers and signs of the life-threatening condition which sees the body attack itself in response to an infection.
Lucy Macklin is the expert medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing David.
Expert Opinion“The last few years of Julie’s life were incredibly difficult not only for her but her family.
“The independent evidence we obtained showed that if further investigations had been carried out when Julie started complaining of pain following her initial surgery, her leaking bowel would have been identified, Julie would have received appropriate treatment and she would have made a full recovery from those complications. She wouldn’t have suffered years of pain connected to the ongoing bowel issues she went through.
“Understandably David and the rest of Julie’s family remain devastated by her death. While nothing can make up for the pain they feel, we’re pleased that we’ve at least been able to provide them with the answers they deserve.
“Worrying issues in the care Julie received have been admitted. It’s now vital that lessons are learned.
“Julie’s death vividly highlights the dangers of sepsis. Through our work we continue to see too many families affected by the condition, therefore, we join David in supporting World Sepsis Day.” Lucy Macklin
Sepsis: Julie Connell's story
Julie underwent surgery to remove her left kidney in December 2013. She complained of pain and was discharged from hospital five weeks later.
Two days later Julie was readmitted to hospital. Scans revealed fluid had leaked into Julie’s body and she underwent surgery to repair her bowel and had a drainage bag fitted.
Julie remained under the care of Wye Valley Trust as an outpatient. She continued to experience problems with fluid collecting in her body which had to be drained and was diagnosed with sepsis several times.
Julie, who required magnesium infusions because her bowel was unable to absorb the nutrients she needed, underwent further surgery to repair her bowel in October 2017. However, in the months after her symptoms returned.
Julie was referred to a specialist at another hospital. During surgery in June 2019, two perforations were identified. However, Julie continued to suffer a leak from her bowel.
Julie’s condition continued to deteriorate and she died in August 2020.
David pays tribute to wife as he issues sepsis warning
David, a training advisor, said: “Julie was an extrovert. She was very attractive, tall and commanded any room she walked into. She was immensely vibrant and the life and soul of our family.
“Cooking was her passion. She had a true love of food and cooking. Before Julie was ill, life was very socially centred. She had many friends and there were always people at our house. However, all that changed when she started being unwell.
“From 2013 onwards our lives revolved around Julie’s health. It felt like she was regularly complaining of pain and was in and out of hospital. She would be diagnosed with sepsis and be given antibiotics but it didn’t really feel like the doctors were getting to the root of her condition and treating the cause.
“Instead Julie had to put up with drainage bags being attached to her for months on end. Julie loved having the grandkids over but wasn’t able to look after them on her own. Even after surgery in 2017 Julie continued to suffer with infection, leakage and stoma issues.
“Julie was a fighter but sadly there was only so much her body could take.
“It was awful seeing everything Julie had to go through in her final years. She went from being a happy, outgoing and independent person to someone who lived in pain and was reliant on others.
“Julie was my best friend and life without her will never the be the same for any of us. There’s not a day goes by where we don’t think about her or the void in our lives.
“I fervently hope that by speaking out I can help raise awareness of the suffering Julie went through in the hope of preventing others having to go through the same.”
More information about sepsis and the signs
World Sepsis Day is on 13 September. For more information about the condition, including signs and symptoms, can be found on the website of the charity UK Sepsis Trust.
Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people and families affected by sepsis at our dedicated sepsis claims section. Alternatively, to speak to an expert contact us or call 0370 1500 100.