Man left tetraplegic after doctors fail to diagnose spinal abscess
Settlement of £2 million after Clive suffered numbness in his legs and was told neck pain was muscular
After coming home from a holiday, Clive developed a cough which gradually worsened and left him with shoulder and neck pain when he coughed and moved. He went to see his GP who planned for an MRI scan if the pain continued.
Clive also lost his appetite, started suffering from night sweats and his mobility was effected.
One morning, a few days later, Clive’s wife Sarah came downstairs to find Clive on the sofa. She knew something was not right with Clive and was so worried about him she took him straight to A&E at their local hospital.
Clive was holding his neck in an awkward position and was in lots of pain when he arrived at A&E. He was seen by a junior doctor who did not ask him any questions about how he had been over the last few days and instead decided the issue was muscular. The junior doctor did no investigations and simply referred Clive back to his GP and suggested physiotherapy.
Clive’s pain did not improve and a few days later he had numbness in his lower body and weakness when trying to stand. Clive and Sarah were so worried that they immediately called for an ambulance and Clive was taken back to his local hospital.
This time the doctor who saw Clive suspected something severe and Clive underwent an MRI scan which revealed a spinal epidural abscess, a collection of pus around the spinal cord, and, after urgent neurosurgical opinion, he was transferred to a different hospital and admitted to Critical Care in preparation for surgery to drain the abscess.
Clive underwent drainage and cervical decompression to stabilise his spine however by that point it was too late and, as a result of the delay, Clive was left tetraplegic due to the damage to his spinal cord.
Potter Rees Dolan argued that the junior doctor failed to realise that the position Clive was holding his neck in was abnormal and not at all in keeping with a muscular sprain and also failed to ask him any questions about his recent history. We also argued that the junior doctor ought to have considered the possibility of a spinal abscess and should have undertaken further investigations which would have led to the diagnosis being made and surgery taking place before Clive’s spinal cord was irreparably damaged.
Clive is now bed-bound with complete motor and sensory loss. He requires 24 hour care and is dependent on others.
Although the Trust responsible for the hospital agreed that had Clive undergone investigations when he first attended hospital the diagnosis would have been made, they did not agree that they should have carried those investigations out in the first place. After negotiations, we were successful in securing a settlement of £2,000,000 for Clive.
Helen Dolan, clinical negligence solicitor and Head of the clinical negligence team at Potter Rees Dolan, acted on Clive’s behalf and commented:
Clive and his wife Sarah had put their trust in the doctor who saw Clive when he first attended A&E and were reassured that, despite all Clive’s problems, this doctor had carefully considered all the issues and concluded that Clive only had a strained muscle. Unfortunately that was not the case and Clive has been left with a life altering condition which has completely changed both of their lives.
I was thrilled to be able to secure such a substantial settlement for Clive which will enable him and Sarah to buy a suitable property and allow Clive to access much needed therapies and possibly even start going out to meet friends again. No amount of money could possibly compensate Clive for what has happened to him, but I hope that this settlement will go some way towards making both Clive and Sarah’s lives easier and more enjoyable.
The names and identifying details of the client have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals involved.