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Debbie's story

To have someone to listen and understand is a huge help and Leigh Day are very understanding – Leigh Day client, Debbie
I’m Debbie, I’m 48, and I live in south London with my family; my husband and I have been married for 20 years, my daughter is 13 and my son is 19. I work in a local school part-time.

I first became aware of my problems with my hips in 2006, after I’d had some pain for a few years. I saw a consultant and he recommended that, in 2007, I have both my hips replaced. His recommendation was to use large, metal-on-metal hips. The promise was a lifetime of activity, no pain, that they would last much longer than the ones on the market currently, so that in twenty years’ time I might be looking at a further operation. That sounded brilliant to me.

The procedures were done and I recovered really well, and I went back to work six months later fine, able to (carefully) do all the things I’d done before; doing all the football with my children, taking them swimming, all the activities. However I began to get some pain again which was reminiscent of the pain which I’d had before surgery, and I got concerned. The doctor followed it up and I went back to see the consultant; he felt there was no problem, that I just hadn’t done enough exercise and needed more physiotherapy, and I saw him on and off for eighteen months with this problem. Finally I was at a point where I couldn’t walk without pain, so I sought a second opinion, and very quickly, about ten minutes into my appointment, they knew exactly what was wrong.

They explained that the metal hips I had had actually started to wear out after a year, and the surfaces were beginning to rub together and shed debris of metal into my bloodstream. This was going through the whole of my body and my body was reacting to the metal, and the inflammation was causing a large tumour to form in both my hips. They were extremely concerned and ran a test on my blood to check the metal levels for cobalt and chromium, and I was told they were ‘alarmingly high’ and that ‘they (the hips) need to come out’. I was told that I would need both my hips replacing again, and that the sooner they did it the better. So very quickly I was in surgery, had the left hip operated on, and they removed the tumour, but discovered that the tumour had damaged my pelvis – the bone had been destroyed – and that I had no hip abductors left attached, which was why I was walking so badly. A large amount of soft tissue had also been destroyed.

The effects on my family were quite traumatic. My daughter suffered a huge amount of anxiety: When was I coming home? Was I coming home? Would I be able to walk? My son was going through his GCSE’s at the time, and I was missing out on their lives, basically just in and out of hospital.

My future prospects are quite limited because of the large hips which I’ve had to have put in are causing a lot of damage, and maybe by 60 I’ll be in a wheelchair, that’s what I’ve kind of been told and that’s what I can expect. I was promised none of this; I was promised that perhaps I would be having a second operation at 60, but instead I’ve had 5 new hips since 2007 and seven operations plus dislocations. Now I walk like a duck, waddling from side to side. I have to use walking sticks and I can trip over the smallest stone because I no longer have the muscles to keep my balance. I go through periods of frustration, but match that with determination because I want to keep going here.

We had a family holiday recently to a place that we normally go to, and actually I realised that I can’t take part in the holiday the way I used to. I can’t walk to the beach as it’s too far and too rocky; everyone else can go off and I have to stay behind. And that’s a fact now. I still have high levels of cobalt and chromium in my bloodstream, and this is nearly three years later. I’ve had some rashes appear on my face and my whole self-esteem has been damaged, and my confidence.

I contacted Leigh Day, who were able to confirm that I had been implanted with the ASR metal-on-metal hip, and they’ve been in charge of my case and claim ever since. I hope to achieve some kind of financial settlement which will give me and my family security for the future. I’m not sure what my mobility is going to be like in the future and I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to work in the future, so  to have that financial compensation there, if I need extra care or extra facilities in the house, extra adaptions, that would all be taken care of.

Certainly the advice and all the information that I’ve received from the solicitors at Leigh Day has been almost better than the doctor’s; they are so knowledgeable, reassuring and interested and concerned. I feel that I have someone listening to me and that I have a reason to be going through with this. You always feel like they know exactly who you are and exactly what your case is; whoever you talk to they just know about you and what’s going on. It makes you feel like ‘Hey I’m someone who counts’ after being told for a long time by my doctors that things weren’t as I was saying it. To have someone to listen and understand is a huge help and they are very understanding.

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