Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Anaesthetic error in Birmingham hospital leaves teenager paralysed for life

BBC News, 31 August 2011:

A teenager was left paralysed from the waist down after a spinal anaesthetic was wrongly left in place for too long, a hospital has admitted.

Sophie Tyler, 14, of Risca, near Newport, had gallstone surgery in Birmingham Children's Hospital in 2008.

But a pain-killing epidural infusion was not removed for two days, permanently damaging her spinal cord.

The hospital said it was "deeply sorry" and that it had made changes to prevent it happening again.

Sophie, now 17, underwent the surgery on 27 May 2008, solicitors for her family said.

A day later she complained of numbness in her right leg.

After two days of receiving the epidural, the numbness had spread to both legs and Sophie was barely able to move her feet.

However, hospital staff did not stop the pain-killing anaesthetic until the night of 29 May.

The following day, Sophie underwent an MRI scan, which revealed that the anaesthetic had entered the spinal cord and damaged the membranes, paralysing her from the waist down.

'Very determined'

Sue Tyler said it had "completely changed" her daughter's life.

"From being an outgoing teenager her life has altered overnight and we have all had to come to terms with what has happened.

"Sophie is still taking her A-levels and hopes to then go to university, but to do so she has had to be very determined and needs a lot of support to enable her to achieve her goals."

Tim Deeming, of Irwin Mitchell solicitors, said Sophie and her family had been devastated by what happened.

"Other than suffering from gallstones, Sophie was a very healthy and active young girl," he said.

"She and her family put their trust in the hospital and believed that within a few days she would be on the road to recovery.

"At the age of 14 to be told the news that you will never walk again is unimaginable, and to discover that mistakes which were entirely avoidable has been incredibly hard for them to cope with."

'Important lessons'
Mr Deeming called for lessons to be learned.

"Birmingham Children's Hospital has a reputation, both nationally and internationally, for clinical excellence which is why it is extremely important both to protect future patient welfare and to provide public reassurance, that the hospital learns important lessons from what happened to Sophie," he said.

Mr Deeming said he hoped the staff responsible had already been retrained so that similar "tragedies" could be avoided.

He said the hospital had admitted full liability, paving the way for a financial settlement.

"Although no amount of compensation will ever turn back the clock for Sophie, she will need specialist care and support for the rest of her life," the solicitor said.

Dr Vin Diwakar, chief medical officer at Birmingham Children's Hospital, said: "We are deeply sorry for the unimaginable distress we have caused Sophie and her family as a result of the care she received at our hospital three years ago.

"The care we provided fell below our usual high standards and since then we have implemented a whole series of changes to try to ensure that this never happens again."

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