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£3.6 million payout for Dudley woman after brain injury following brain surgery errors

Brain injury caused by negligent surgery


A Dudley woman who has been left severely brain damaged and wheelchair-bound after a neuro-surgeon attempted to remove a brain cyst with a pair of medical tweezers, is today expected to receive £3.625 million damages.

49-year-old Elaine Silvester, a former care home worker, from Kingswinford was admitted to the neurosurgery unit at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham. Two days earlier, having awoken with a severe headache, she had been taken to Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley where a CT scan revealed she had a colloid cyst on the brain.

Although benign, the cyst, which was approximately 8mm in diameter, was pressing on the brain and if not removed, would have continued to increase in size.

On 24th March 1999, Mr Wasserburg, a newly appointed consultant neuro-surgeon at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, performed an operation to surgically remove the cyst.

Initially he had indicated to the family that surgery would take only a couple of hours but Mrs Silvester was in theatre for over six hours. During this time Mr Wasserburg got into difficulties. Not only did he access the cyst using the wrong surgical approach* but attempted to biopsy the cyst by tugging at it with rongeurs (medical tweezers). In fact the cyst was attached to a vein and as a result caused a large brain haemorrhage.

Paralysis caused by brain surgery

As a result of the surgical errors, Mrs Silvester is now completely paralysed on her left side, has severe memory loss, mental impairment, is partially blind and has no sense of smell.

Todays expected settlement, which is due to be approved by the High Court in Birmingham, follows an admission of liability by the University Hospital Birmingham NHS Trust on 2 December 2005.

Husband, Mr Wayne Silvester, aged 42, said: Elaine and I were led to believe the operation would be straightforward and fairly routine. I remember when Elaine came out of surgery, Mr Wasserburg admitted the operation had not been a success but then said these things happen. I was extremely upset and angry by the way in which he broke this news to me.

Elaine was in ITU in a very bad state and at one point the doctors said she only had a 50/50 chance of pulling through. She remained in a coma for many months after the surgery. When she did finally regain consciousness it was a long uphill struggle before she was able to come off the ventilator and eat without the aid of a tube. She has had to undergo a further 11 operations. As a result of rehabilitation sessions she is now able to sit up and speak and has regained some movement in her right side.

Although no amount of compensation will ever make up for what happened to Elaine, the money has allowed us to move into a bungalow which we have had specially adapted and will also pay for the round-the-clock care she needs.

Brain injury solicitor comments

The family's solicitor, Claire Williams, from the Birmingham office of national law firm, Irwin Mitchell, said: This has been a lengthy and complex case. Initially the Hospital Trust were reluctant to admit that there had been any negligence on the part of their surgeon and claimed Elaines condition was an unavoidable consequence of neurosurgery.

It was only after independent medical experts confirmed Elaines injuries arose because of the way her brain operation was carried out, that the hospital finally admitted liability.

Todays settlement of £3.625 million, consists of a lump sum of £1.225 million and a £120,000 annual payment guaranteed for life. The terms of the settlement are highly unusual in that Elaine is guaranteed an income of £120,000 p.a. We are particularly pleased to have negotiated the for life payment as this will provide long-term financial security and peace of mind for Mr & Mrs Silvester.

Claire Williams added: Prior to this settlement, Elaine Silvester was completely dependent upon her husband and mother in law, Valerie.

They selflessly undertook Elaines personal care, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Todays compensation will not only provide the best possible nursing care for Elaine but also will ease some of the strains put on the family and allow Wayne and Valerie some respite of their own.

If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of surgical negligence, we may be able to help you claim compensation. See our Medical Negligence Guide for more information.