Hannah Carr, a specialist medical negligence solicitor from Novum Law’s Salisbury office has secured a settlement for a man after hospital doctors failed to diagnose and treat a post-surgery infection which led to him contracting necrotising fasciitis (‘flesh-eating disease’), a potentially fatal condition that affects the tissue beneath the skin and surrounding muscles and organs.
In March 2017, Lee Howell (37) underwent an elective vasectomy and circumcision. Following the surgery, despite clear evidence that he had an active surgical site infection (SSI) and systemic inflammation, Lee was prematurely discharged from hospital.
After returning home his condition deteriorated rapidly and his family called an ambulance. While in Accident and Emergency, an initial diagnosis of a surgical site infection was made and antibiotic therapy commenced.
Doctors failed to realise the seriousness of Lee’s infection and for a period of two days, he was treated with antibiotics that did not effectively treat his condition, leading to his health worsening further.
By this point, it was clear to Lee and his wife that he was suffering from a significant infection of the scrotum, penis and peritoneum. He was in severe pain with wound discharge and evidence of skin changes.
Finally, doctors diagnosed him with necrotising fasciitis or Fournier’s Gangrene, commonly referred to as ‘flesh-eating disease’. This was an incredible shock to Lee and his wife, particularly as doctors warned them both that his infection was potentially life-threatening.
It put Lee and his family under a tremendous amount of stress. Lee’s wife visited her husband daily – even when he was transferred to another hospital further away for additional aggressive treatment. She also had to shoulder the childcare responsibilities of looking after their two young daughters.
In total, Lee had to undergo seven invasive and painful surgeries and suffered from a protracted recovery period because his wounds would not heal. He required extensive and unpleasant treatment to assist the healing process and was in a great deal of pain and discomfort for a sustained period. He also suffered with increased anxiety levels due to the fear of further infections and experienced low moods.
As a result Lee, a self-employed tattoo artist, was unable to work for around six months and was not only concerned whether his business would survive his absence but also how his family would financially cope.
Lee continued to struggle psychologically and was eventually diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). His behaviour became obsessional and on a daily basis felt afraid that either he or his loved ones would develop a life-threatening infection.
In January 2020, Lee had reconstructive surgery which fortunately, went without complication. While there has been some cosmetic improvement, it has been recommended that he have further reconstructive surgery. Lee said:
“I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this whole experience, including the aftermath has been the worst experience of my life. It has been life-changing in many ways even though I know I have been incredibly lucky not only to still be here but that the effects weren’t even more devastating than they might have been.”
Hannah Carr, who represented Lee throughout his damages claim said: “This type of infection spreads rapidly across the body and requires fast antibiotic administration with surgical intervention if necessary. Here, there was clear evidence of an active surgical site infection pre-discharge and, therefore, Lee should never have been discharged when he was.
“Our primary case was that, on the balance of probabilities, Lee’s infection should have been effectively treated with antibiotics before he was discharged. If this had happened, he would not have gone on to develop the potentially fatal necrotising fasciitis.
“Even if the local infection had progressed to early necrotising fasciitis, the tissue damage would have been greatly reduced by the early and correct antibiotic therapy and any surgical intervention, if required, would have been minimised.”
Lee’s case involved some complex arguments regarding the causative effect of the delays in diagnosing and treating his infection. Hannah and her team gathered robust independent expert medical evidence which helped to successfully settle his claim following lengthy negotiations.
Speaking after receiving his medical negligence compensation, Lee said:
“My wife and I are extremely pleased with the outcome of our case and relieved that we can finally move on with our lives. It has been a long three years and we feel very lucky to have had the expert legal help and support from Hannah through every step of the claim. Hannah and her team went above and beyond to help us through an extremely difficult period of our lives, for which we will be eternally grateful.”