A young woman left with “locked in syndrome” after a catastrophic medical blunder has won compensation from Wigan hospital chiefs.
Doctors say that Anna White, 21, will need care for the rest of her life, but she has nonetheless astonished them by the recovery she has made since a supposedly routine appendix operation went so disastrously wrong six years ago.
Wrightington Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, which had been making interim payments to the Whites before the settlement was agreed, has previously admitted the care it provided to Anna “fell below an acceptable standard,” and has apologised unreservedly.
Schoolgirl Anna dreamt of a career in midwifery and was a promising gymnast and karate champion.
But aged 15 those ambitions were shattered by a Wigan Infirmary visit for one of the most common surgical procedures. After having her appendix out, she was accidentally given an anaesthetic overdose which stopped her heart, starved her brain of oxygen and in turn left her paralysed and unable to walk and talk. While her mind was unimpaired, she suddenly lost all independence and was warned she could be “locked in” for life.
But six years on and mum Donna says her determined daughter gets better every day.
With therapists’ help, the now 21-year-old from Whelley is learning to walk again and perform simple, everyday tasks that most of us take for granted. Her speech is also slowly returning and a board of letters she used to spell out words by blinking has long since been ditched.
Donna, 41, said: “I always had hope, but this is a dream. All I ever wanted was to hear her voice again.
“She’s just so determined. She has parallel bars and a rollator to practise walking and she’s on them all the time. The therapist asked her to practise pinching her fingers and thumbs together so she went out and bought Kerplunk.
“She’s learned to feed herself, to drink, clean her own teeth and brush her own hair. She’s always taken pride in her appearance and she can even do her own make-up now. She’s amazing, my Anna. She’s smashing targets all the time.”
It was while recovering from her appendectomy that an unwashed cannula used to administer anaesthetic flushed an extra dose through Anna’s body, causing cardiac arrest. Wrightington
Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust later admitted negligence, but only recently settled the case for an undisclosed sum.
Anna is a big David Beckham fan and a friend always bought her his calendar.
It was on seeing this, the Christmas after the surgery, that Anna smiled for the first time and Donna realised there might be hope despite what doctors had said.
But there was little progress for several years until interim payments began when Donna could pay for intensive physio, hydrotherapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy, mostly unavailable on the NHS.
Lauren Tully, clinical negligence specialist at law firm Slater and Gordon who represented the family, said: “Anna was the innocent victim of a devastating and avoidable mistake and the priority here was to make sure she would be looked after, whatever happens. While her progress so far and her prognosis are better than any of us could have hoped for, she may still need care for the rest of her life.”
Donna, who quit her job as a cleaner to become a full-time carer for Anna, said she now finally feels able to relax and focus on the future. While she hopes to put her new-found knowledge to good use and train as an occupational therapist, Anna has her sights set on a holiday to LA.
Donna added: “The day after we settled I just lay in bed thinking ‘I don’t have to worry.’ Whatever happens she is fine now, she is secure, she is protected for life. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I can concentrate on getting Anna right.”
The hospital admitted its error three years ago and in a statement then a spokeswoman for WWL said: “The trust has admitted that the care it provided to Anna White fell below an acceptable standard, and has apologised unreservedly to Ms White. The trust has implemented a number of changes to eliminate the possibility of this type of failing occurring in the future.”