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Compensation for grandfather who lost a leg after hospital failures

View profile for Malcolm Underhill
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A grandfather from Bristol has received a compensation payment for an undisclosed amount after hospital failures led to him having his leg amputated. The 53-year-old has told of the agonizing pain he was left in after undergoing a hip resurfacing procedure. 

Amputation was the “only option”


In July 2009, Michael Stephenson from Bristol underwent a hip resurfacing procedure on his left leg at the Avon Orthopaedic Centre, located at Southmead Hospital. The operation was undertaken as an alternative to a total hip replacement, with a cobalt-chrome metal cap placed over the head of the femur, with a matching cup placed in the pelvis socket. The operation provides more bone preservation than a traditional hip replacement, and minimizes the potential for surgeon-induced discrepancies, such variations in patient leg-length. However, Mr Stephenson contracted an infection upon completion of the procedure. 

The grandfather reported agonizing pain following the operation. His wound began to “leak and ooze”, but medics said the symptoms were nothing to be concerned about. 10 days later, doctors took a swab and prescribed him antibiotics. However, the action taken was too late and the infection had spread into the hipbone. 

Mr Stephenson spent the next four years in constant pain and endured several lengthy hospital stays. He was unable to return to his job as a chef and eventually, in June 2013, doctors said the 53-year-old would have to have his leg amputated up to his pelvis in order to fully rid himself of the infection. The amputation was said to be “the only option”. 

In July 2013, Mr Stephenson had a transpelvic amputation, with the full removal of the socket and hip. The procedure is rare with severe consequences and is usually only performed on cancer patients. 

Quicker treatment would have saved his leg

Following the amputation, Mr Stephenson had to accept he would never return to work and he was forced to give up all of his hobbies. He now relies heavily on his wife Cheryl for help with everyday tasks, and due to the nature of the amputation, there is no possibility of a prosthetic leg being fitted. 

After learning that doctors failed to spot the infection in a timely matter, Mr Stephenson commenced legal action against the North Bristol NHS Trust, which is responsible for Southmead Hospital. In 2012, the Trust admitted liability, acknowledging that medics had acted negligently in not spotting the signs of infection. Had he been treated sooner, amputation would not have been a necessity for Mr Stephenson. The parties have now agreed to settle the legal case, with an undisclosed damages payment made. 

Mr Stephenson has spoken of his plight, describing the “long and painful road” to where he is now. He said that the amputation has had a “huge impact” on his life, with him still trying to adjust to a new way of living, but that had he known that it would have relieved him of the agony he was in following the initial hip resurfacing procedure, he would have had the leg removed sooner. He stated:

“My family and especially my wife have been a tower of strength for me - I simply don't know what I would have done without their love and support. I do struggle with a lot of things and need carers to help with simply things such as going to the toilet, getting dressed, getting out of bed, but I am learning to adapt as best as I can. 

I've also developed a number of ailments since including phantom limb pain and a pressure sore, which can be very painful at times.

The settlement has allowed me to buy and adapt a house which is close to my family and grandchildren and hope that I can soon establish a sense of independence for the first time in six years."

The Trust has apologized for the failings in Mr Stephenson’s post-op care. Catherine Phillips, deputy chief executive of the North Bristol Trust, said she was “pleased” that a settlement had been reached, and that the Trust “hopes that the compensation received will assist with Mr Stephenson's care and improve his quality of life”. She commented: 

"We would like to re-iterate the apologies made in 2012 and offer Mr Stephenson and his family our best wishes for the future."

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You are entitled to expect a certain standard of treatment from those providing medical assistance to you. If this treatment falls below standard you may be entitled to recover the cost of the private medical treatment needed to correct the failings on the part of those originally treating you. Our goal at IBB Law is to obtain justice for victims of the negligence by others, by securing compensation that reflects their pain and suffering, as well as related financial losses including loss of earnings, treatment costs and specialist care costs.

If you want to enquire about making a hospital, dentist or GP negligence claim, please contact one of our medical negligence solicitors on 0333 123 9099. Alternatively, you can send an email with your name and contact information and brief details as to the nature of the accident/clinical negligence and the injuries sustained to and one of our team will be able to help you.

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