'Pray for Paul today' - wife's plea as gallbladder op victim faces surgery

Sue Tooth asked readers to pray for her husband Paul, 64, today as he undergoes a 10-hour operation 

Sue Tooth asked readers to pray for her husband Paul, 64, today as he undergoes a 10-hour operation - Credit: Archant

The wife of a victim of botched gallbladder surgery has asked people to pray for her husband today, as he undergoes a life-threatening 10-hour operation.

Sue Tooth, 62, said yesterday she did not know how she was going to say goodbye to her husband at 8am, when he was set to be wheeled into theatre for an operation they have been warned has very high risks.

She met Paul, 64, at school in Devon when she was just 14 and the pair have barely been apart for the last 48 years.

Back in the day: a photo of Sue and Paul together in their schooldays. They met when she was 14 and he 16

Back in the day: a photo of Sue and Paul together in their schooldays. They met when she was 14 and he 16 - Credit: Archant

Mrs Tooth said: “How do you say goodbye to someone, when you’re waving him into the operating theatre, knowing you might never see them again?

“What are you supposed to do? I just can’t imagine my life without him.

“The last time he was in I didn’t know how bad it was and I was in pieces, someone literally had to pick me up off the floor.

“This time I don’t know what I’m going to be like, it almost feels like he’s on death row and now it’s his time. I just feel horrible.

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“It would be so kind if people would pray for him, you just need as many people on your side as you can, don’t you.”

Last January a surgeon at the Norfolk and Norwich hospital wrongly removed Mr Tooth’s common bile duct and part of his liver during what should have been a routine gallbladder operation.

His bile now has to exit his abdomen through a tube into a bag, and he must spend ten hours a day recycling it into his body via a tube up his nose.

It was one of three similar operations botched by Mr Camilo Valero in five days.

Investigators from the Royal College of Surgeons subsequently reported they could not understand why Valero did not ask for help once it became clear the surgery was not going as planned, and questioned his understanding of the procedure.

But the RCS did not call for his suspension and he continues to practice at the hospital, pending the outcome of an ongoing General Medical Council investigation.

Surgeon Camilo Valero, 43,  has not been suspended

Surgeon Camilo Valero, 43, has not been suspended despite the botched operations - Credit: Archant

Today the entire hepato-bilary surgical team at Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge will attempt to put right some of what went wrong.

Mr Tooth’s liver was so badly damaged by the initial operation, today doctors will have to remove two-thirds of the organ.

His common bile duct, which transports bile from the liver into the intestines, was damaged beyond repair, so surgeons will excise a 70cm length of his bowel to fashion into a replacement.

They will attempt to attach one end to the stub of the bile duct in the liver, which is only 3mm wide, and the other end to his bowel. If they cannot form a perfect seal, bile will leak internally causing sepsis.

In the absence of the natural valve in the common bile duct, which prevents contaminants from the intestines flowing backwards into the liver, surgeons will create a U-bend shape to trap any food particles which may flow backwards towards the liver.

Paul Tooth has to recycle bile from his liver, which now collects in a bag, back into his body through a tube up his nose

Paul Tooth has to recycle bile from his liver, which now collects in a bag, back into his body through a tube up his nose - Credit: Archant

But the Tooths, who live in Dereham, have been warned that even should everything go perfectly, some contamination will inevitably occur in the future.

That will mean bacteria growing around food particles trapped in the U-bend, and emergency trips to hospital every few weeks to treat infection.

The few days after today’s operation will be the most dangerous.

Mr Tooth explained: “We’ve been told, whatever happens I’m going to get an infection. It’s complicated surgery, they’re cutting into the bowel, it’s just going to happen, and it’ll be huge.

“So if I survive the surgery they’re going to wait and see and pump me full of powerful antibiotics - but sometimes they don’t work.”

Apart from his handful of foreign postings Paul and Sue have barely been apart for 48 years

Apart from his handful of foreign postings Paul and Sue have barely been apart for 48 years - Credit: Archant

The former RAF engineer has spent the week talking to friends and family but is remarkably calm about the operation. He credits his stoicism on his Forces training and his faith.

He said: “I believe in God, and if God says ‘your time’s now Paul’ then off I go.

“If he sends me back, then great. What I don’t want to do is suffer.”

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