Hudgell Solicitors has secured a five-figure damages settlement for a woman after surgeons mistakenly punctured her bladder when carrying out a hysterectomy.
As a result of the error, which was not noticed at the time by doctors at Hull and East Yorkshire Women and Children’s Hospital, the 50-year-old woman collapsed in agony at home a week later and had to be rushed back to hospital by ambulance.
It was subsequently discovered her bladder had been punctured, caused by a heated surgical implement used during her hysterectomy, and had resulted in an infection.
She needed to have a catheter fitted whilst the wound healed, but also developed several urinary tract infections and a cyst on the site of her injury.
The cyst had to be removed during a second operation at Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham, 10 months after her hysterectomy surgery.
Following legal action led by Hudgell Solicitors’ medical negligence team, Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust has now agreed a damages settlement with the patient, who lives in the East Riding.
‘It was almost a year of things going wrong. I lost my faith in the medical profession’
The woman, who asked not to be named, had been referred for a laparoscopic subtotal hysterectomy – keyhole surgery to remove the womb – after fibroids were discovered.
She said the error during the initial surgery impacted on her life for almost a year. She was unable to work for three months and couldn’t take part in her show jumping hobby or take care of her horses, requiring care and support from family and friends.
She also says she often felt so poorly and anxious that she was unable to leave her home, and was fearful of her second operation to remove the cyst given all that had happened before, suffering from panic attacks.
“It was almost a year of things going wrong and I lost my faith in the medical profession,” she said.
“They said it was a routine operation and that thousands are performed every year, so you don’t expect to end up needing to have a catheter for two-and-a-half months. It was so embarrassing and upsetting.
“I didn’t want to go outside. Apart from feeling really poorly, I lost a lot of weight and it affected my mental wellbeing. I didn’t want people to see me like that.
“It was uncomfortable and horrible using the catheter. If my bladder filled up it was really painful. I’m pretty tough but that was awful.
“I was having panic attacks about having the cyst removed and I’d never had them before. I didn’t know what to do with myself and I went to see a counsellor.
“I was very anxious about having to go in for another operation. Before all of this, I had always been fit and healthy. Something like this really knocks your confidence and you’re never really sure what’s going to go wrong next.”
Injury would have been avoided had surgery been performed with ‘reasonable care and skill’
As part of the legal case it was alleged the hospital had breached its duty of care though ‘excessive or inappropriate use’ of the heated implement when carrying out the hysterectomy on August 5, 2013.
Having taken the opinion of independent medical experts, it was alleged the surgeon failed to move the bladder away from any attachments to the cervix, causing the damage during the procedure.
It was also claimed that had the surgery been performed with ‘reasonable care and skill’, the injury to her bladder and the need for a catheter would have been avoided, and as a result she would then not have has to endure an extended recovery period, would not have required the support of counsellors and occupational therapists, and would have avoided an additional hospital admission and treatment for the cyst on her bladder.
It was also alleged that the hospital had been negligent in failing to diagnose the injury to her bladder when she was readmitted as an on August 12. At the time she was complaining of abdominal pain, shaking, was clammy and she feeling sick.
The injury to her bladder was finally diagnosed nine days later, on August 21, during which time the patient had been in ‘continued pain’.
Hospital Trust denied allegations but offered five-figure damages when court case loomed
Although the Trust did not admit liability throughout all legal representations, it finally offered a five-figure damages settlement when Hudgell Solicitors were set to submit papers for the matter to be considered at court.
Sam Thompson, part of the medical negligence team at Hudgell Solicitors, represented the woman in the case, and said: “The basic facts are that my client went into hospital for what should have been a routine procedure to resolve a personal problem which had been causing her difficulties and she suffered avoidable injuries which caused her long term pain and suffering.
“It was our case that the unacceptable and excessive use of a surgical tool caused the initial injury, and as a result she was still needing further treatment and surgery 10 months later.
“I was pleased to be able to secure a positive outcome and a settlement for my client, but in my opinion the case could have been settled far easier and earlier because the issues were clear from the outset.
“The Trust decided to defend this claim but made an offer very late in proceedings shortly before the case was due to go to trial, when further challenging questions had been put forward.
“The reality is that this approach from the Trust only served to add additional legal costs to the matter, which I feel didn’t need to happen and could have been avoided.
“I hope my client can now put this behind her and move on with life as positively as possible.”
Despite experiencing such difficulties, the woman said she is looking ahead to the future and is positive about life.
“I’m doing well now and life is back to normal,” she said.
“I’m getting out and enjoying life. It’s just a shame it took so long to get to this point. It’s a lot of time out of someone’s life to rectify the mistake they made. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. The hospital trust said procedures had been put in place, so I hope that means it won’t happen to anyone else ever again.”
The woman said her experience of Hudgell Solicitors was positive and her case was handled well.
“Hudgell Solicitors took me through the legal action, gathered my medical notes for investigation and arranged for me to see a urology consultant to get an independent expert opinion. They did a great job and took it through to the end.”