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22 October 2022 | Case Study | Article by Lesley Herbertson

Medical negligence leads to young man needing leg amputation

Widow urges for more organ donors of ethnic minority after her young husband’s death. A British Asian Widow of Indian origin is calling for more people in her ethnic minority group to consider organ donation having experienced the death of her husband who suffered from kidney failure brought on by Type 1 diabetes.

Sunny Patel, an insulin dependent diabetic since the age of 18, underwent a simultaneous pancreas and kidney transplant at the age of 38 after being diagnosed with chronic kidney disease.

His health issues were becoming a huge concern for him and his family, with Sunny experiencing ongoing complications with his long-term diabetes, and having to start dialysis soon after being diagnosed with kidney disease.

Sunny underwent the simultaneous pancreas and kidney transplant in 2012 at Guy’s Hospital in London but, due to a lack of basic checks for a pulse after surgery, the hospital staff failed to notice he had developed a blood clot in his lower left limb.

The lack of blood flow to the leg was not noticed until 36 hours post-surgery, when Sunny came round from sedation complaining of excruciating pain in the lower left limb.

Sunny was rushed to St Thomas’ Hospital for emergency vascular surgery, where the clot was removed and blood flow restored to the lower left limb.

The surgery proved too late to recover the situation and Sunny suffered severe nerve damage to the lower left leg with foot drop due to partial extraction of dead muscle.

He was left in agonising pain and was sedated again. His wife as the next of kin was asked to make a decision. She was advised by the vascular team that her husband would benefit from a lower left leg amputation.

His widow, a civil servant, explains:

I was distraught on hearing that the damage caused through the hospital’s negligence in carrying out basic checks was now irreversible, and the thought of my husband waking up to find his limb missing would be devastating for him.

Sunny’s pancreas transplant placed in the right side of the abdomen had worked straightaway, so he no longer had to take insulin injections for diabetes. But his kidney transplant, placed in the left side of the abdomen (the same side as the damaged limb), failed to work.

He spent four months recovering in hospital having a number of kidney biopsies, numerous dressings to the leg, sutures to the damaged limb, the insertion and extraction of numerous surgical necklines for dialysis, and trialing a cocktail of pain medications until a combination which masked the chronic nerve pain in the limb was finally found.

He was later advised that even with an amputation there was a chance he may still be left with ongoing phantom limb pain, and therefore the decision to undergo amputation was made even more difficult.

The hospital negligence left Sunny suffering in agony with chronic nerve pain for three years which proved detrimental to his health, both physically and psychologically, being stripped of any independence and becoming reliant upon a wheelchair.

Sunny had to resume dialysis post-transplant, and his overall health began to deteriorate, with mobility problems and keeping the chronic nerve pain at bay proving a daily struggle.

His widow said:

Sunny began seeing the hospital psychologist during his dialysis sessions. He stopped going out socially, lost most of his self-confidence and dignity as he was confined to his bed when at home, and needed a wheelchair when going to hospital for dialysis and appointments.

We both experienced first-hand how difficult life was to plan when being dependent upon a wheelchair. We encountered many restrictions and limitations and found society on the whole wasn’t as disability-aware as it could be.

In June 2015, Sunny suffered a number of cardiac arrests whilst at home with his wife which resulted in hypoxic brain injury. This lead to his untimely death announced on 2nd July 2015 at the age of 41. He had been under consideration for being put back on the transplant register for a new kidney.

His widow believes people in her ethnic minority group need to understand the potential risks associated with diabetes, and acknowledge the fact that they are at higher risk of contracting illnesses which require organ transplants.

She urges people to consider signing up to the organ donation register and thanks the deceased donor’s family for their loved one’s donation, which helped her husband through one of his many hurdles.

The death of her husband, and the circumstances surrounding his death, have obviously caused emotional and psychological turmoil to Sunny’s widow and the respective families.

The couple were married only five years, with Sunny diagnosed with kidney disease in the first year of their married life, starting home dialysis in the second year, receiving the simultaneous transplant in the third, which brought about ongoing complications for the remaining years.

Lesley Herbertson, a Partner from Hugh James who represented Sunny, said:

Sunny was a charming man who struggled bravely for many years with several debilitating health issues. Whilst his medical condition was complicated, during the time I spent with him and his family, it became clear that Sunny was to face a longer wait for a suitable kidney donor second time around, which only served to exacerbate his pain and suffering, and outlook to life.

For more information or to sign up to become an organ donor, please click here.

Author bio

Lesley Herbertson is a Partner at Hugh James and a leading medical negligence solicitor with over 30 years’ experience in dealing with catastrophic and serious injury medical negligence cases.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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