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Father-of-three now in wheelchair due to rare spinal condition

  • 02.03.2022
  • EmmaArnold
  • Clinical-negligence
  • Spinal cord injury spinal injury cauda equina syndrome

Chris, a scaffolder from Bolton, thought he just had a bad back after lifting a heavy box during a shopping trip. The father-of-three, 34, had been training for a full marathon due to take place in May this year.

However, in November 2021, after struggling with the pain for a few days, he visited his GP and was told if it got worse or he felt any numbness, he should go to Accident and Emergency.

After attending A&E, Chris was kept in overnight, and after the results of an MRI scan, he was blue-lighted to Salford Royal as an emergency, the same category as a heart attack or a stroke.

Chris underwent surgery just hours later to release the pressure on the nerves in his spinal column that were being compressed.

The pain was later diagnosed as cauda equina syndrome which is a rare and severe type of spinal stenosis where all of the nerves in the lower back suddenly become severely compressed.

Although Chris is thankfully not paralysed, it will take him time to recover fully, and he is now using crutches to get about for short distances and a wheelchair for anything longer.

His son, Oscar, has been growing his hair for the last two years to donate to the Little Princess Trust to make wigs for young cancer patients. After his dad’s injury, he has decided to raise money for the Cauda Equina Champions Charity, of which Storm Keating is an ambassador.

The charity has helped the family cope during the difficult period of time including the three weeks Chris spent in hospital, having physiotherapy and learning to walk with a frame.

Lesley Herbertson, Partner in our Clinical Negligence team, said:

As Chris’ story shows, the importance of acting quickly following certain types of back injury or pain can make a significant difference to a person’s quality of life.

Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES) occurs when the nerves at the bottom of the spine become compressed and is a condition that can come on very suddenly. If a patient presents to a GP or at hospital with severe lower back pain, they should be asked whether they have experienced any change in their bowel or bladder habits or whether the sensation in their saddle area has altered.

If they have experienced such changes, then that might suggest a developing CES which requires urgent investigation and possible surgery. Once the signs of CES are apparent, time is of the essence and a failure to act quickly enough, and before the nerves are fully compressed, can leave a patient with life-long mobility, as well as bowel, bladder and sexual, issues.

Lesley Herbertson is a Partner in clinical negligence here at Potter Rees Dolan. Should you have any queries about Cauda Equina Syndrome or indeed any other aspect of clinical negligence and wish to speak to Lesley or any other member of the team, please contact us on 0800 027 2557 or contact Lesley directly.