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22 October 2022 | Case Study | Article by Helen Dolan

Young man left with breathing difficulties after hospital failed to notice their mistake

Jamie suffered a head injury when he was assaulted but it was his treatment in hospital which left him with other health complications. In June 2009 Jamie had been working in a city away from home when he had gone out for the evening and was assaulted.

He was taken to a local hospital and seen in the Accident & Emergency Department where he was diagnosed with a head injury.

Unfortunately, due to the effect of Jamie’s injuries, his condition deteriorated and he was sent for an urgent CT scan which revealed a large frontal subdural haematoma, a bleed on the brain, which was causing pressure to build up inside his head and also resulted in his breathing becoming erratic.

As a result, an airway was inserted to help Jamie breathe and he was given high flow oxygen and he was then transferred to another hospital due to the extent of his injuries.

When Jamie arrived at the second hospital, he underwent a craniotomy in order to remove the bleed and relieve the pressure which had built up. After surgery, Jamie was taken to intensive care where he was intubated and ventilated and he remained on the ventilator for four days until he was moved to the ward.

Just two months later, Jamie was seen by a neurosurgeon at his local hospital as he was having trouble breathing and had developed a stridor, an abnormal or high pitched sound normally produced when the airway is partially obstructed.

Jamie’s condition deteriorated and he became unable to walk even short distances without becoming breathless. Jamie went back to his local hospital where a tracheostomy was inserted on an emergency basis as his airway was found to be critically compromised.

Jamie brought a medical negligence claim against the second hospital and alleged that his breathing problems, the development of the obstruction and his need for a tracheostomy had all been caused by the original intubation and ventilation he had undergone following his surgery.

Hugh James were able to assist Jamie and alleged that the cuff of the original ventilator tube had been significantly overinflated but, importantly, that the over-inflation had not been recognised.

As a result of the over-inflation, Jamie had to undergo a further operation just months after significant surgery to his head and he required a tracheostomy.

This meant Jamie had a much longer recovery period from his original assault and meant that he was very breathless and unable to undertake a lot of activities himself.

We were able to achieve a settlement of £50,000 for Jamie to compensate him for the additional pain and suffering he went through and to compensate him and his family for the extra care and support they provided to him due to his breathlessness.

Helen Dolan who acted on Jamie’s behalf commented:

This was a very difficult case as Jamie had suffered a brain injury along with other injuries following an assault.

The hospital that originally treated Jamie did everything right in relation to his brain injury, however, the second hospital Jamie went to over-inflated the cuff holding his tracheal tube in place, did not recognise their mistake and therefore did not correct it.

Whilst this might seem a small part of Jamie’s overall treatment, it unfortunately had a very significant consequence for Jamie as he struggled to breathe and was unable to do a lot for himself. At a time when Jamie needed to have all of his strength to help him recover from the injuries associated with his assault, he was left more vulnerable and weakened because of his difficulty breathing.

I was very pleased that we were able to secure compensation for Jamie as for him it was important that the second hospital recognised that they had made a mistake and that this had affected him greatly.

The names and identifying details of the client have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals involved.

Author bio

Helen Dolan is Joint Head of the Manchester Office and Head of the Clinical Negligence team. Helen specialises in high value complex secondary brain injury, spinal cord injury (including cauda equina syndrome), birth injury, cerebral palsy and wrongful birth cases, and also has extensive experience of orthopaedic and surgical 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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