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Settlement secured for woman after bowel surgery delay led to irreversible injury

A woman suffered serious complications after abdominal surgery was delayed so that she could be transferred to a hospital equipped to carry out a special blood transfusion which was inappropriate for her.

Posted on 09 June 2020

The patient, who we have called Georgia, did not require the blood transfusion and brought a clinical negligence claim after she suffered sepsis, an irreversible injury to her bowel and required a stoma due to unnecessary delay in treating her bowel obstruction.
 
The 19-hour wait happened when Georgia was transferred to another hospital equipped with a cell salvage machine which facilitates a transfusion of the patient’s own blood.
 
Georgia, who is a Jehovah’s Witness, would not have accepted a blood transfusion if one was needed, but would accept a transfusion of her own blood. However, it was argued in her claim that the risk of Georgia requiring a blood transfusion was very low and the cell salvage would not have been available or appropriate for the type of surgery Georgia required.
 
She was represented by Leigh Day solicitor Lauren Tully who also argued that the medical staff should have carried out the surgery within four to six hours of diagnosis.
 
Lauren said hospital staff should have advised Georgia that a blood transfusion was unlikely to be required and they should have offered emergency surgery, agreeing to proceed on the basis that if there were problems and a blood transfusion was required, it would not be given while advising her of the risks associated with this.
 
It was decided at 3pm that Georgia needed emergency abdominal surgery, but the operation was not carried out until around 10am the next day. Cell salvage was considered inappropriate given the low risk of blood loss and the abdominal contamination caused by Georgia’s illness and so Georgia underwent the same surgery that she should have undergone the previous day at the first hospital.
 
Following the operation, during which her heart stopped, Georgia’s family were told that she was more likely to not survive the sepsis than survive it. In the next few days, she developed multi organ failure and needed hemofiltration for renal impairment. She required ventilation and developed pneumonia.
 
She remained in hospital for two months and required three further surgical interventions in this time.  
 
She also required a stoma which she had for a further two years before reversal surgery.
 
Following discharge, it took Georgia a number of months to regain her mobility and return to work. She has been left with a significantly scarred and distorted abdomen. She intends to undergo surgery to correct her weakened abdominal wall and improve her scarring.
 
In her legal case it was argued that if the hospital had carried out the emergency surgery in the appropriate time, Georgia’s injuries would have been significantly less and she would have been discharged within seven to 10 days and made a full recovery.
 
Liability was initially denied and was not admitted until very late on in the case when it was agreed that Georgia would receive compensation of more than £200,000.
 
Lauren Tully said:
 

“It is disappointing that the trust involved denied liability in the first instance, meaning that Georgia had to endure a long and avoidable delay in her case. She had already suffered severe physical and emotional effects from her delayed surgery, and it would have been possible for the trust to acknowledge their failings much sooner.
 
“I am glad to have been able to secure a sum for Georgia which makes some amends for the pain she has endured and recognises her ongoing symptoms and financial losses.”

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Lauren Tully
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Lauren Tully

Lauren Tully is an associate solicitor in the medical negligence department.

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