A 67-year-old man with a history of ill-health has been awarded damages after a series of hospital failings resulted in him being fitted with the wrong heart device.
The clinical mistakes also involved leaving a wire tip inside his chest cavity resulting in an abscess, an acute kidney injury and several sepsis infections which, in one case, required him to be flown home from holiday.
Medical experts consulted as part of his claim for clinical negligence said his life expectancy had been shortened by two years due to the catalogue of failings and he had suffered “significant anxiety”.
The pensioner, from South Yorkshire, said he was left in pain, experienced breathlessness and was left depressed as he needed hospital treatment time and time again. He says he now worries about having further clinical procedures.
“With everything that has happened, being fitted with the wrong defibrillator, I’m dubious about having another one. I don’t want to go through all that again; the infections, the treatments, the pain, it really knocks you. I had to be flown home from holiday once because they’d left a wire inside my chest.
“I feel worse now than before I had it fitted. I just can’t do what I used to. I can’t walk far and I’m short of breath,” he said. “I just think people didn’t read my notes and that led to the mistake.”
‘He has endured prolonged infection, pain and anxiety which could have been avoided’
The successful medical negligence claim, brought by Hudgell Solicitors on behalf of our client alleged the NHS Trust treating him had breached its duty of care by failing to order and fit the correct defibrillator device and that it had failed to take out a wire tip when it was removed a year later.
In an out of court settlement the Trust admitted liability and our client was awarded £50,000 damages.
Hudgell Solicitors’ clinical negligence litigation executive Kirsty Yates who represented the man said:
“This has been a harrowing period for my client who initially went into hospital believing that he would leave with improved health benefits. But he has had to undergo operations that would likely have been unnecessary if the correct device had been fitted in the first place.
“He has endured prolonged infection, pain and anxiety which could all have been avoided if proper checks and communications had been in place in the lead-up to his operation.”
The grandfather initially went into hospital in January 2017 for a procedure where it was noted that a wire in his then current heart defibrillator, a device similar to a pacemaker that sends electrical shocks to the heart to restore the heartbeat to normal, had become infected.
The device was removed and the next month a new one was fitted, but the wrong kind of defibrillator had been ordered and was subsequently implanted.
“It was about a week later and my consultant, who didn’t insert the device, said he’d seen my X-rays and I had the wrong one and I’d have to have it changed,” said the pensioner, who wishes to remain anonymous.
The man would wait a year for a further procedure to fit the correct device.
‘At one point I didn’t think I was going to get out of there’
When he did have the operation in 2018 all seemed well at first, but he then developed a series of infections resulting in sepsis and a further procedure was carried out eight months later to remove the correct defibrillator completely.
A few weeks later he felt unwell again and attended hospital with a fever. Another infection was identified, this time due to a wire tip from the removed device being left inside his chest. It was noted this has caused an abscess to form.
More surgery was undertaken later that year to drain the abscess and remove the wire fragment; the man then developed an acute kidney injury and remained in hospital for three months.
When he was finally discharged, he had to wear a ‘Life Vest’, a wearable external defibrillator, for months to ensure he was free from infection before another device could be implanted.
“At one point I didn’t think I was going to get out of there. It has been a really stressful time and I’m not better yet, it really knocks your confidence,” said the man who has asked the NHS Trust responsible isn’t identified as he is still receiving ongoing treatment.
The man said he decided to take legal advice after a conversation with a friend, “It has been straightforward and I was kept informed by Kirsty all the way through,” he said.
Ms Yates added, “It has been a pleasure to represent him and finally find out exactly what went wrong and why and also for the Trust to admit that this should not have happened.
“This was very poor care for what should have been a relatively simple task. A patient should expect the right device to be ordered and fitted the very first time and it has reduced his quality of life.”
No matter how high the standards of care and treatment in our health services, things can sometimes go wrong.
Medical negligence occurs if you receive substandard treatment by a medical professional, whether that’s directly causing an injury, or making an injury or condition worse.
Medical negligence can also happen if you are misdiagnosed, receive the wrong treatment, or a mistake is made during surgery.