'He tried to blame it on me' - second mutilated patient speaks out
- Credit: Archant
“I can’t walk my daughter to school. I can’t shower on my own. I can’t shave my legs or be with my husband or be anything a 33-year-old woman should be able to be.
“I can’t have any more children, he’s taken that away from me. He’s robbed me of everything I was and everything I was going to be. I’m just sitting in my chair waiting to die.
“And he tried to blame it on me.”
Lucy Wilson from Norwich expected her gallbladder removal last January at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital would be quick and relatively painless.
Instead her life has changed irrevocably, after a surgeon botched three operations in a week, including hers, leaving two of the patients scarred and suicidal from their horrific, life-changing injuries.
The surgeon has not been suspended despite an ongoing investigation by the General Medical Council, and continues to operate at the hospital, unsupervised except in the case of specific surgeries.
The trust has refused to publish even a summary of two other investigations into the incidents, or say what it has done to ensure it could not happen again.
Earlier this week this newspaper reported on the struggle facing Paul Tooth, 64, who has to spend six hours a day pumping bile out of his liver and back into his body through a tube in his nose.
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He has lost five stone since the surgery he described as a 'mutilation', and faces a dangerous operation next month to reconstruct organs the surgeon wrongly removed.
Five days before Mr Tooth went under the knife, the same doctor mishandled Lucy Wilson’s surgery so badly that doctors at Addenbrooke’s Hospital said it was a miracle she did not share his fate.
As in his case, the surgeon did not just remove Mrs Wilson's gallbladder, but excised the bile duct which connects the liver to the intestines, as well as removing a chunk of her liver.
Four-and-a-half litres of bile were flooding her abdomen and eating away at her internal organs by the time of her life-saving 11-hour surgery at Addenbrooke’s the following week. The doctors in Cambridge reconstructed the duct using parts of her intestine.
She said: “My consultant called me a miracle, he was certain the cells had died. Incredibly the new duct closed. I was very lucky.”
But the surgery left her incontinent, limiting when and for how long she can leave the house. Earlier this week she was rushed to hospital again, after her scars started ripping inside. She also has sections of her bowel protruding through hernias, and often cannot move for the pain.
The three incidents in January each required a “root cause analysis” investigation by the hospital, and Lucy received a copy of hers in May.
In its 31 pages, seen by this newspaper, there is no reference to the two other patients who suffered at the hands of the same surgeon within days of her case.
Instead, under the heading “how did this happen?” the report states: “A common bile duct (CBD) injury is one of the recognized risk/complications after perform [sic] a laparoscopic cholecystectomy.
“It happens in around 1% of the surgeries and in your case it was higher than normal population [sic] because of your previous episodes of cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder) and obesity.”
Mrs WIlson has struggled with her weight for many years but was taken aback by the reference to her size.
She said: “He tried to blame it on me, on my weight. I can’t believe it now, knowing that he’d done it three times in a week.
“And anyway they’ve operated on bigger people and that shouldn’t get in the way of my medical needs or whether I’m treated like a human being.”
After being discharged from Addenbooke’s she returned to the Norwich home she shares with husband Paul, 41, their two daughters, cat and three dogs.
For two months her physical symptoms were so bad she could not leave the front room, sleeping upright in an armchair.
The former prescription clerk said: “I take a stack of medicine just to be able to stay in this chair. I can’t walk my children to school because I might soil myself.
“I might have another 60 years like this - I don’t want another day of it. I’m utterly exhausted and wanting to die.”
Her solicitor Daniel Menell said: “Lucy has been diagnosed with PTSD and is currently undergoing therapy to help come to terms with the trauma that she has and continues to go through on a daily basis."
The Trust has accepted liability and in October NNUH sent the Wilsons a letter referencing the multiple incidents and investigations, and the surgeon sent a lengthy personal letter of apology.
Mrs Wilson said: “They hold their hands up and say they got it wrong, and won’t do it again, and then they do - look at poor Mr Tooth.,” she said.
“I feel so guilty for Paul, I wonder if I’d have screamed and shouted, would they have stopped the surgeon? I’ll always carry that guilt.
“They have to tell us what’s changed.”
The Trust said confidentiality meant the report sent to Mrs Wilson could not mention other patients, and said it was not making the review carried out by the Royal College of Surgeons public due to patient confidentiality and ongoing litigation.
But expert legal sources told this paper there would be no breach of confidentiality as long as specific identifiable personal details were not included in reports.
Prof Erika Denton, NNUH medical director, said: “We offer our continued apologies to Mrs Wilson for the serious injury and complications she experienced during her surgery last year.
“We have fully investigated what happened and changed and strengthened our surgery processes to ensure that this will not happen again.”
The Trust said it was assisting the GMC with its enquiries. A spokesman for the GMC said it was investigating and working closely with the Trust.
Additional reporting by Jess Coppins.
How common are surgical errors?
The NHS advises that gallbladder removal is a "relatively safe" and "very common" procedure. Most people can leave hospital the same day, or the morning after surgery. However like all operations has a small risk of complications.
Risks include infection, internal bleeding, and injuries to the bile duct or intestines by surgical instruments. Bile leakage happens in approximately 1% of cases.
According to the latest board papers published by the NNUH Trust, the number of Serious Incidents reported at the Trust has fluctuated between 10 and 30 each month over the last two years. The hospital carries out more than 5,000 scheduled procedures per month, and has around 1000 beds full at any given time.
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