Hudgell Solicitors are supporting a devastated widow who is demanding answers from a hospital Trust as to how a swab was left inside her husband for 13 years following an operation.
Former long-distance lorry driver Francis Hibbard was often in agony before he died, according to his wife Christine.
Now, she is asking serious questions over his treatment as when he attended at hospital shortly before his death, scans showed a retained swab in his pelvic region, which had been left there for 13 years.
A mass attached to it had calcified and grown around veins and had become the size of a melon, pressing on his rectum and bowel.
Luton and Dunstable Hospital has admitted the swab was mistakenly left behind following Mr Hibbard’s prostate operation in 2001. It was also then missed on a CT scan in 2003 and only identified in 2014 when Mr Hibbard suffered a severe deterioration.
Mr Hibbard was at that point also found to have developed multiple sites of cancer, and died before an operation to remove the mass could be carried out.
Medical Negligence Specialists
It comes as a report last week revealed such mistakes – called ‘Never Events’ in the medical profession because they are serious incidents and errors that the NHS accepts are ‘wholly preventable’ and therefore, should never happen – are being made repeatedly across the country.
Almost 1,200 such ‘unacceptable serious events’ have occurred in hospitals in England over the past four years, with mistakes including operations taking place on the wrong patient and the wrong limbs, objects being left inside the body, and even a kidney being removed instead of an ovary.
The situation has brought national media attention to the widespread failings, with Mr Hibbard’s case reported on by Sky News, the Daily Express and the Mirror newspapers.
An inquest into Mr Hibbard’s death is now due to be heard next month.
“There is quite simply no excuse or explanation that can be given to defend the error of leaving a swab behind inside a patient following an operation. It is a simple case of counting the swabs in and back out again to ensure a mistake is not made,” she said.
“Mr and Mrs Hibbard were left in a total state of shock when they were told of the swab having been left in him for so long.
“He went back to hospital as the pains he was suffering were so bad, and it was a big shock to be told a large mass had developed around the retained swab and was pressing on rectum and bowel.
“It has left many serious questions to be asked as to how this sort of error could ever happen, and the full impact this had on the quality of life Mr Hibbard was able to enjoy with his family.”
Luton and Dunstable University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, has already admitted breach of duty in relation to the swab being left behind in Mr Hibbard, as well as admitting that a key opportunity was missed to spot and remove the swab on a scan.
Now, Mrs Hibbard is taking legal action against the Trust, through Hudgell Solicitors, claiming the hospital’s errors were completely unacceptable.
“When we went to hospital and saw the scan in June 2014, we saw a large white mass and a doctor said to us that it was clearly a swab which had been left in. It looked like a fishing hook,” said Mrs Hibbard.
“The only time it could have been from was from Frank’s prostate operation in 2001, and we were told it had calcified and grown around veins, intruding into his rectum. Frank needed an operation to remove the mass as soon as possible, but he became too weak and fell into a deep coma like sleep for seven days, before he died in my arms.
“Part of me died that day too, as ever since I have felt lost and alone. My husband of nearly fifty years and my best friend was gone forever.”
Mrs Hibbard, 70, says her husband was left in constant pain before he died in the summer of 2014.
“I feel angry. Angry firstly that a swab was left behind following his operation in 2001, and then that it was also missed on a scan,” she said.
“All those years he lived with a swab inside him. I just feel the health system badly let him down. In my view the poor treatment left him in agony and had a massive impact on his health. I am so angry and always will be.”
Having first met him when she was just 16, and married two years later in September 1964. Frank’s death, just short of his 70th birthday, has left a massive hole in the life of Mrs Hibbard, her two children and four grandchildren.
They were always there for one another, including a difficult time in their lives when losing their daughter Allison, who died nine years ago.
“The pain is still intensely raw and remains at the forefront of my mind. He is the first thing I think about when I wake and I have difficulty sleeping without him. The crushing pain comes from knowing he is never coming back,” added Mrs Hibbard.
“We went everywhere and did everything together. In the days that followed I was afraid to go out of the house. How could I on my own? Frank was my rock, and life will never be the same without him.”