A mother-of-two was left in crippling pain and struggled to walk for 19 days, after a doctor lost a stent in her body, during a procedure to remove gallstones.
Tracy Smith, 54, from Biggleswade, was told the stent - a small mesh tube used to keep passageways around the body open – had become mistakenly lodged in her pancreas, rather than placed in her liver.
It was a further three weeks before it was possible to locate and remove it.
On 4 January 2016, Tracy began experiencing a severe tightening around her chest and feared that she may be suffering a heart attack. She was rushed to Lister Hospital where an ultrasound scan discovered that she was in fact suffering from stones in her gall bladder.
After staying in hospital for two days, she was sent home and told to wait for an appointment to remove the stones, which could only be scheduled for six weeks’ time.
The following day, she attended her regular outpatient appointment to assess her Chrohn’s disease, but her doctor noticed that she was jaundiced and arranged for an MRI to be undertaken to check the condition of her liver.
The scan, which was carried out on 11 January 2016, found that the gall stones were blocking her liver and she required an emergency endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) test.
Two days later, Tracy underwent the ERCP and the doctor attempted to place a stent into her liver to open it up and allow the stones to move into her intestine, where they would be easier to remove.
But, during the procedure, the sedation medication that had been given to Tracy failed to take effect and she started to struggle and retch due to the tube in her throat. The doctor tried to continue with the procedure but ended up losing the stent and it became lodged in her pancreas.
Tracy said: “The whole procedure was extremely uncomfortable – I was awake during the process as the sedation didn’t work properly, and I could feel the tube down my throat. I couldn’t help retching, but the doctor seems to think I was doing it on purpose and was telling me off.
“After the procedure was over, I was wheeled back to the ward and told that it had actually gone wrong and the stent had been put in my pancreas. I don’t remember very much from then on as I was on very strong pain relief. But, it wasn’t until the early hours of the morning that the doctor actually explained how serious the mistake was to my daughter.”
Tracy was told by doctors that Lister Hospital did not have the capabilities to remove the stent and they had to look for another hospital that could do it. Until the stent could be removed, the gallstones would remain in Tracy’s liver, causing her excrutiating pain – but the operation to remove the stent could not be completed until 22 January 2016 at University College London Hospital.
As there was nothing more the hospital could do for Tracy at that time, she was sent home.
But days later, Tracy began suffering from extreme pain that left her unable to walk or move. This became increasingly worse and she could not feed herself properly or go to the toilet without help. She was rushed straight back to Lister Hospital where she remained for almost a week.
On 22 January 2016, a stretcher ambulance was arranged to take Tracy to University College London Hospital to finally remove the stent.
Unfortunately, doctors were unable to remove it as the curved hook of the stent had become enbedded in the pancreas flesh. Surgeons had little choice but to cut holes around the stent in the pancreas, in the hope they would widen enough for the stent to be removed in around a week or so.
Ten days later, after a second operation, surgeons managed to get the stent out and also remove the gall stones – four weeks after Tracy had originally been admitted to hospital.
Tracy said: “The whole experience has been extremely upsetting and has been very difficult to deal with. The first ERCP was horrendous, and then the mistakes afterwards have just really added to the stress. I was in so much pain, and it was incredibly frustrating being told that there was little that could be done for me for weeks, despite it being the doctor’s error that had made my condition worse.”
Tracy contacted legal experts Fletchers Solicitors to bring a claim against the hospital trust to ensure this would not happen again.
East and North Hertfordshire NHS Foundation Trust made admissions on 24 August 2017 and Tracy received £8,000 in compensation in September 2017.
The letter of response admitted that the surgeon had incorrectly over inserted the stent into the pancreas. It was also admitted that had the mistake not occurred, Tracy would not have needed the further two procecures to remove the stent.
Michael Carson, the senior lawyer at Fletchers Solicitors who handled the case, said: “Tracy has been through a terrible ordeal and it had a huge impact on her psychologically. When mistakes like this occur, it can have catastrophic consequences on the rest of the victim’s life, as well as affect their loved ones. Tracy has experienced a lot of difficulties coming to terms with what has happened, but in time she can start to regain some of her confidence.
“We really hope that the compensation she received can go some way towards helping her get back on track.”