Mother-of-two is paralysed by a SNEEZE – and now she’s suing the NHS for not diagnosing serious spinal condition
A devastated mother-of-two is suing the NHS after doctors misdiagnosed a spinal condition which left her disabled – when she sneezed. Debbie Thomason, 35, claims she suffered permanent damage when doctors mistook cauda equina syndrome – a serious spinal condition – for another back condition.
She already suffered from the nerve condition sciatica, but had to be rushed to hospital in May 2011 after she sneezed and collapsed in excruciating pain at her Northampton home.
Doctors at Northampton General Hospital failed to detect that nerves at the base of her spine had compressed as a result of her sneeze and she had developed cauda equine syndrome.
The condition, which is triggered by the narrowing of the spinal canal, causes nerve roots to compress below the level of the spinal cord. This requires patients to undergo urgent surgery or risk paralysis.
But delayed operating on Mrs Thomason’s spine for eight days and despite two further operations when doctors finally diagnosed her condition, she can now only walk a few yards and has been left virtually housebound.
She is now suing the hospital for clinical negligence, claiming her debilitating condition should have been picked up much earlier than it was.
Mrs Thomason, who has had to give up her job as a foster mother as a result of her condition, said: ‘I am absolutely distraught. ‘My life has been completely shattered by the permanent damage to my spine, which I believe could have been prevented if I had received the care I urgently needed.
‘I had had sciatica at the time but nothing like this. It was basically caused by a simple sneeze as I was coming out of my bathroom.
‘I never dreamed it could lead to being disabled. I feel so angry that this has happened and that nothing can be done for me.
‘By taking legal action I hope to highlight my case to the trust and help to save other people from going through what I have. ‘While it is too late for me, it may not be for someone else.’
Her husband Darren, 37, has had to give up his job as a bricklayer to become a full-time foster parent and look after the couple’s children Jamie, 15, and Bethany, 12. He is also a full time carer to Debbie who cannot bathe of dress herself and needs assistance going to the toilet.
Mr Thomason said: ‘It is so sad what has happened. Debbie loved nothing more than taking the kids out to the park and playing games and we also really enjoyed our family holidays. ‘Now we can’t even go out. She is pretty much permanently bed-ridden and in constant pain. It is so upsetting to see.
‘She did have sciatica, but it was just nothing more than mild back ache. It was undoubtedly the sneeze which caused this. ‘It was a powerful sneeze and she was left on her hand and knees in agony.
‘But we believe there were unacceptable delays after her condition was not spotted and this has resulted in her current predicament.’
The couple’s solicitors also claim that eventual surgery – and two further operations – was of a poor standard which has contributed to her constant pain.
Eddie Jones, clinical negligence lawyer at solicitors JMW, said: ‘Debbie is now disabled at the age of 35 and has gone from being an independent woman, used to spending her days caring for others, to someone who needs care herself.
‘Cauda equina syndrome has devastated her life, but the tragedy is that it doesn’t have to cause such significant disability and can be treated effectively with urgent surgery.’
Northampton General Hospital said it was unable to comment due to the ongoing legal process.
Hospitals are very bad places for the elderly, says head of the NHS who compares treatment of old and frail to ‘national scandals’ of mental asylum care
He’s trying to pass the buck
Hospitals are ‘very bad places’ for elderly people, according to the head of the NHS. Sir David Nicholson said they were not the right place to care for ‘old, frail people’, and called for community care to be expanded to accommodate the growing elderly population.
He compared modern treatment of the elderly to the ‘national scandals’ of the Sixties and Seventies caused by treating mental health patients in large asylums.
‘If you think about the average general hospital now, something like 40 per cent of the patients will have some form of dementia,’ Sir David told The Independent.
‘They [hospitals] are very bad places for old, frail people. We need to find alternatives.’
He added: ‘The nature of our patients is changing – and changing rapidly. You are getting a larger and larger group of frail, elderly patients who are confused.’
Sir David, who is currently the NHS’s chief executive, was speaking for the first time since his appointment as head of the Health Service’s Commissioning Board.
The new body will take over responsibility for all NHS services in England from the Department of Health in April.
His warning comes after a series of scandals involving substandard care of the elderly, including at Stafford Hospital, where up to 1,200 patients may have died unnecessarily.
He said: ‘I would compare it with where we got to with the big asylums. If you remember what happened in the 1960s and 1970s, there was a whole series of national scandals about care of mentally ill patients.
‘The response was not just to say that the nurses who looked after these patients needed to be more caring, but actually there was something about the way we treated these patients and the model of care that needed to change.’
Sir David’s plans to revolutionise elderly care, particularly for dementia patients, include treating common conditions locally and using funds to keep patients out of hospital. ‘I would compare it to where we got to with the big asylums. There was actually something about the way we treated these patients that needed to change.’
Creating community-based treatment centres, managing long-term conditions and preventing falls would be key to future care of the elderly, he said.
Such expansion of community services could lead to hospital closures, with services concentrated in larger, specialist centres.
In December, Prince Charles spoke about the ‘crisis in caring’ in Britain, warning that modern medicine and technology were putting the ‘human touch’ at risk. He said he was ‘sure that there is much more that can be done to foster and enhance those age-old qualities of human kindness and compassion’.
Weeks earlier, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had said there was a ‘kind of normalisation of cruelty’ in the worst hospitals.
Sir David – who will be in charge of an annual budget of £93billion, but seek more than £20billion of savings – said the Commissioning Board would not be afraid to challenge ministers over financing.
He said it would also tell the public how much money the NHS needs to achieve goals such as keeping waiting lists down and improving life expectancy.
‘We will be saying, “If that’s the amount of money which is available, these are the sorts of things we will be able to deliver and these are the sorts of things that we can’t”,’ he said. ‘That’s a big change. We will be saying, “If you do this, this is what we think the implications will be”.’
Rise in British tuition fees leads to 40% drop in university admissions
The hike in tuition fees has caused ‘wild and dangerous swings’ in university admissions, with some institutions taking on 43 per cent fewer students that the previous year.
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) revealed that 51,000 fewer students started degree courses last autumn – a fall of 12 per cent – after fees nearly trebled to £9,000 a year.
Ten of the 24 leading universities from the Russell Group, including Leeds, Imperial College London and Warwick, registered drops.
London Metropolitan University, which last year had its licence to sponsor international students revoked, suffered the biggest fall at 43 per cent.
Enrolment also dropped 13 per cent at the University of Southampton, 10% at the University of Liverpool and 9% at the University of Sheffield. There was also a 7 per cent decline at the University of Birmingham, Birmingham University and 6 per cent drops at the University of Leeds, Imperial and the University of London.
But some institutions managed to buck the trend, including University College London, where enrolment rose 22 per cent, and the University of Cardiff, which posted an increase of 13 per cent.
King’s College London boasted a rise of 12 per, while admissions were up 11 per cent at the University of Edinburgh.
Shadow universities minster, Shabana Mahmood, said the figures show the Government’s decision to raise the cap on fees is having a chaotic impact on higher education. She told The Guardian: ‘Ucas reports wild and dangerous swings – with some huge losers and some winners – but the variations show severe volatility in the system that should be a concern for everyone.
‘The government must now answer for the damage it has done to those universities that have suffered as a consequence of their reforms and decision to raise fees to £9,000’
Ms Mahmood said the decline could have a devastating impact on local economies of cities such as Manchester and Leeds.
Patrick McGhee, vice-chancellor of University of East London and chairman of Million+, which represents new universities, said the figures do not include a decline in students studying part-time. He told The Times: ‘The need for Government to launch a campaign to promote the value of higher education is all too obvious.’
In 2010, thousands of people staged a series of protests against a rise in fees ahead of the vote in the House of Commons.
There were violent scenes at the Conservative Party’s Millbank campaign headquarters in London. Protesters stormed the building and a fire extinguisher was thrown from the roof.
The Liberal Democrats bore the brunt of many people’s anger and last year Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg apologised for an election pledge not to raise fees.
Britain faces global cooling
Britain faces more travel chaos tomorrow after forecasters predicted a fresh blanket of heavy snow over much of the country – and said the big freeze could last for two weeks.
But as some of these pictures show, the bad weather didn’t necessarily mean bad news for everyone, with families across Britain determined to make the most of the snow.
Following Friday’s deluge, much of today’s snow was limited to flurries in the North East of England and the east of Scotland. But the weather heaped misery on more than 10,000 households in South Wales, where residents found themselves with no power this morning.
The M48 Severn Bridge was closed in both directions because of hazardous conditions and the Highways Agency warned drivers to take extra care on all roads across the UK.
Many rail passengers were hit. South West Trains cancelled services between Salisbury and Bristol and Virginia Water and Weybridge, Surrey. Routes from London to Hampshire, Berkshire, Surrey, Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset and Devon were also affected.
With more snow set to fall tomorrow and overnight into Monday, hundreds of schools could be forced to close.
Forecasters said heavy snowfall of up to 3in (8cm) will hit coastal regions of south-eastern England and London tomorrow, with amber weather warnings issued in Kent and Hertfordshire.
Temperatures will not rise above freezing next week, with Met Office forecaster Robin Thwaytes warning: ‘It looks like it will be a slow thaw, probably taking place this week or the week after.’
Heathrow has already been badly hit by the bad weather and the announcement that 20 per cent of Sunday’s flights have been axed will bring further misery to hundreds of passengers who have remained trapped at the airport after spending the night sleeping on the floor.
More than 100 have been cancelled today and some travellers complained that they had spent seven hours sitting on a plane on the tarmac only to be told to return to the terminal. One commentator referred to the vast complex as a ‘refugee camp’.
It comes as fears grow that the Arctic conditions may not recede for up to two weeks, leaving the country shivering under a layer of ice and snow in a ‘once a decade’ big freeze.
Met office forecaster Robin Thwaytes said: ‘It looks like it will be a slow thaw, probably next week or the week after.’
Taking offence is a British national sport
The price we pay for freedom is letting silly insults or harmless asides roll off us – so, two words of advice to all the transsexuals “offended” by Suzanne Moore: man up!
The journalist Suzanne Moore was writing a thoughtful article about the pressures on women in a hyper-sexualised society when she reached for a comparison, as writers do. Moore suggested that, increasingly, women felt they should look like “Brazilian transsexuals”.
You knew exactly what she meant. The Brazilian transsexual and the Thai ladyboy are both shorthand for a kind of streamlined, ravishing ultra-femininity. Those of us whose idea of personal grooming involves a quick Bic [razor] in the bath, rather than a waxed deforestation followed by a litre of yak butter, can only marvel at the sheer effort which those chaps who have joined our gender bring to the business of being a woman.
Personally, I would be thrilled to be mistaken for a Brazilian transsexual. So much foxier than a Hobbit in Boden [clothing shop] or a mum in pyjamas on the school run. Suzanne Moore meant no offence. It was not the Brazilian transsexuals who were the object of her concern: she was worrying about women who feel miserable because they don’t measure up to supermodels. She might just as easily have asked, “Why do our daughters need to look like Barbies?”
I bet she wishes she had. There would have been no hysterical complaints from wounded members of “the Barbie community”, claiming to have been trivialised or marginalised or stigmatised. So far, plastic dolls with implausible boob-to-hip ratios have not organised to lobby angrily for their minority rights, though you never know.
Unwittingly, poor Suzanne incited the ire of transsexuals on Twitter, where indignation spreads like a forest fire. On social media, it takes a matter of minutes for an innocuous aside to be inflated to “bullying”. Formerly a very grave charge, in our brave new world of tolerance, bullying now basically means: “They said something I don’t like.”
An organ called Pink News demanded that Moore apologise for what it solemnly called “her recent transphobic outburst”. Just to add to the atmosphere of sweet reason, Julie Burchill wrote an article for the Observer, defending Moore and machine-gunning what she called “bed-wetters in bad wigs”.
Shamefully, the editor added injury to insult, pulling the Burchill piece from the website after it had had been published: a move that was simultaneously repressive and useless. Then Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone weighed in, calling for Burchill and the Observer’s editor to be sacked. I think you may have got the wrong country, Lynne love; this is Britain, not Communist China.
So, a perfectly valid comparison is blown up into “a transphobic outburst”. A decent writer wrongly accused of bullying refuses to apologise for an imaginary offence and is then bullied into closing her Twitter account by the Monstrous Regiment of the Thin-Skinned. I’m afraid that this is where political correctness has got us. Taking Offence is the new national sport, and the moral high ground is so bloody crowded it’s more bad-tempered than Waitrose [high-end supermarket] car park on a Saturday.
We shouldn’t need to worry how our remarks are perceived, not unless they threaten a real person. No more than an airport worker need be afraid she will be suspended for wearing a cross into work. This is a free country, and the price we pay for that freedom is letting silly insults or harmless asides roll off us.
The thin-skinned Offence Brigade would do well to remember the advice of the great Thomas Carlyle: “No man lives without jostling and being jostled; in all ways he has to elbow himself through the world, giving and receiving offence.”
Oh, and two small words of advice to all the transsexuals “offended” by Suzanne Moore: man up!