By Laura Elvin
A woman has been awarded a “significant” sum of money after a doctor’s misdiagnosis left her with serious medical problems for life.
Michelle Chapman told a junior doctor at Leicester Royal Infirmary’s accident and emergency department that she was suffering from Cauda Equina Syndrome.
The condition leads to numbness in the bladder area and incontinence caused by nerves trapped between collapsed vertebrae in her spine.
Instead of giving her a vital MRI scan and operation to release the nerves, the doctor said she did not have the condition and sent her home.
The short window to rescue Michelle’s nerves was missed and the 45-year-old has been left with numb legs, incontinence and will need to use crutches for life.
Now she has received compensation from the hospital which has enabled her to buy a specially-adapted house and will pay for her care for life.
Michelle, from Melton, said: “You trust your doctors. You’ve got to. You don’t go to hospital and expect to be fobbed off.
“It really knocked my self-confidence, and has taken away the independence that I had before.”
Michelle had back pain for some time before she collapsed at home in May, 2007, aged 39.
She visited her GP and told him she was having some incontinence and numbness, and he alerted her to Cauda Equina Syndrome.
He told her to look out for “red flag symptoms” – signs that the condition was getting worse and needed immediate help. Some days later, her symptoms got worse, so she called an ambulance and went to Leicester Royal Infirmary with her fiance, Alister Hughes.
“I was seen by a junior doctor and my condition was mentioned,” said Michelle.
“But he put on his notes there was no sign of the condition and sent me home.”
A few days later, her GP gave her a courtesy call to check how she has feeling.
When Michelle told him about her treatment at hospital and her increased symptoms he immediately called the infirmary and booked an MRI scan. It revealed Michelle needed immediate surgery in an attempt to stop permanent nerve damage.
She had an operation to remove part of the disc that was pressing on her nerves but it was too late – permanent damage had been done.
“If they had done that the first time I had come in, it would not have been as bad as it was,” Michelle added.
An out-of-court settlement was agreed between Michelle and her solicitor, and the University of Leicester NHS Trust’s legal team, in June.
Michelle said she was awarded “significant” compensation. “I could be bitter and angry – and I was at the time – but I am not going to let it ruin my life,” she said.
“The settlement has given me a bit of normality back and a bit of independence.”
Michelle’s solicitor, Mehmooda Duke, of Moosa-Duke Solicitors, said: “As a lawyer dealing with these cases, I would see it as a huge achievement if there was greater awareness of Cauda Equina Syndrome among health care professionals and, if suspicions of Cauda Equina Syndrome were taken more seriously and acted upon more quickly.”
A spokesman for Leicester’s Hospitals said: “We now know Ms Chapman should have been admitted for further investigations when she attended the emergency department. I am sincerely sorry this did not happen.”
“We have taken this very seriously and, although this may be of little comfort to Ms Chapman, we have shared the results of the investigation with staff in the department to minimise the likelihood of a similar incident happening again.”