A woman who broke two fingers during a game of netball has been left with a permanent and ‘obvious deformity’ due to errors in her medical treatment – preventing her from playing the sport and causing long term difficulties.
Ruth Grierson, 47, of Rotherham, South Yorkshire, says she now finds many everyday tasks a struggle and is worried about the long-term impact of her injuries.
She has also been left devastated at no longer being able to play a sport she has enjoyed since being a child.
Ms Grierson, a mother-of-two who also foster cares, suffered fractures to the fingertip joint and tendons at the end of her ring finger, and a fracture to tendons at the end of her middle finger.
She says both fingers ‘flopped forward’ when attempting to catch a fast pass from a teammate during a match in February 2015.
They were injuries which, with appropriate treatment, should have made close to complete recoveries.
However, they have ultimately left her largely unable to use her left hand, which was described by medical experts consulted as part of a legal claim on her behalf as being left permanently ‘clumsy, painful and weak’, even after five operations.
Ms Grierson has now received a five-figure damages settlement, having taken legal action with the support Hudgell Solicitors’ medical negligence claims team.
Legal claim alleged failure to act on significant injury
It was alleged as part of the legal case that doctors failed to identify the significance of the fracture to Ms Grierson’s ring fingertip joint, which alongside the tendon injury on the end of her finger had made it require a wire transfixion procedure.
Ms Grierson first attended at Mexborough Hospital in South Yorkshire after suffering the injuries and was treated with a splint and bandaging only.
She was then transferred to the care of Barnsley NHS Fracture Clinic, where treatment with various splints and bandages continued for more than a month.
It was not until her fifth visit to Barnsley Hospital, more than a month after her injury was suffered, that she was urgently referred to a specialist hand clinic in Sheffield by a consultant orthopaedic and hand surgeon, who described her care to that point in his notes as ‘neglected’.
In that time Ms Grierson says her ring finger had ‘ballooned to around three times its normal size’ and become increasingly painful and stiff.
She was finally referred for an operation, but by this stage her finger was dislocated so badly that the joint only had very limited movement. She underwent further operations but she was still left with a highly dysfunctional hand this is painful, weak, stiff and deformed.
“I just felt like I was being passed from one person to another once I had been transferred to Barnsley Hospital with no consistency in my treatment at all,” said Ms Grierson.
“All they did was apply a splint and strapping, but each time I went back I saw somebody different and they strapped it up in a different way. They didn’t seem to know what had been previously done and why and just tried strapping it up differently.
“It was painful and becoming stiffer with each passing week and then all of a sudden it ballooned to around three times its normal size.
“It was agonisingly painful at times, and I am somebody who has a high pain threshold. I was taking the strongest painkillers possible but it was still so painful and stiff.
“It was only when I was sent to Sheffield that I was booked in for an operation and I was told that it was one of the worst broken fingers they had seen in terms of a fairly minor injury being allowed to become so bad. There were already signs of arthritis.
“It has really affected my life and I would give anything to have my fingers back as they were. I am aware of it and I really struggle to grip and pick things up. My little finger also now has little movement as that was strapped to my ring finger for a long time, so I really only have one finger and my thumb on my left hand which move freely.
“I struggle with so many things now, from fastening clothes and preparing food to things like brushing my daughter’s hair. I also like to go jogging but my left hand feels the cold much quicker and it often becomes very painful.
“I played netball twice a week and have played since I was a school so it was a massive part of my life. Not being able to play has taken away that enjoyment, plus the social side of seeing friends.
“People have said to me that I could try playing with it strapped up, but I was a shooter and I need that flexibility in my fingertips. I’d also be too afraid of further injuries.
“I just feel very badly let down by the treatment I received in Mexborough and Barnsley, but then I saw the other side of the NHS at Sheffield who were excellent and did all they could for me when sadly it was too late to make a full recovery.
“This has all been because the care was not taken to treat me properly from the start, and that is difficult to accept.”
Solicitor says poor care was cause of ‘worst possible outcome’
Solicitor Sarah Scully, of Hudgell Solicitors, represented Ms Grierson in the case against Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Trust and Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which jointly agreed to a damages settlement.
She said: “This relatively minor injury has become life-changing for Ms Grierson, so much so that an independent medical expert we consulted as part of the case said it was the worst outcome he could have imagined other than her losing her finger.
“That is due entirely to the poor level of hospital care she received, firstly at Mexborough but mainly for more than a month when she was under the care of Barnsley Hospital.
“She has struggled since both at home and at work, finding it harder to type for her job and finding many of the day-to-day normal home activities now difficult.
“As someone who takes pride in her appearance, she has been left feeling self-conscious about her hand. She feels she has lost confidence.
“We completely appreciate that this financial settlement cannot improve her physical condition, but we do hope that it goes some way to compensating for her loss after a very difficult and challenging couple of years.”
The Doncaster Trust admitted there had been a poor quality assessment taken at Mexborough and failed to refer Ms Grierson to a community hospital and that it amounted to breach of duty.
The Barnsley Trust admitted also admitted breach of duty of care in that it had failed to provide appropriate treatment, causing the long-term injuries.