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Failure to diagnose meningitis: Life after amputation

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    Amputation resulting from medical negligence can be caused in a variety of ways such as misdiagnosed critical limb infections or delayed treatment for meningitis. The failure to effectively diagnose and treat these illnesses can have devastating consequences for patients and their families who, as a result, are faced with adjusting to life without limbs.

    By Kerstin Kubiak

Due to the aggressive and rapid development of infections and viruses such as meningitis, delay in treatment of a few days or even a few hours can mean that it is too late to save hands, toes, feet or in extreme cases whole limbs. However, making a clinical negligence claim can secure funding to ensure life continues to be full of enjoyment, as demonstrated by one truly inspiring young amputee who is making the most of life following her amputations that could have been avoided if there had not been a late diagnosis of meningitis.

In 2005 Terry and Jodie Cross, originally from Bath, took their daughter Lydia to the out of hours GP with a temperature. They were told that she had a virus but that it was nothing to worry about and were sent home. Less than 24 hours later her condition had deteriorated; she had been vomiting, had a frighteningly high temperature and was hallucinating that spiders were crawling over her body. A different GP diagnosed an ear infection and sent her home, this time with antibiotics.

The following day Lydia was not any better and Jodie requested a home visit from the GP. Jodie was told this was not their policy but that it sounded like she still had a virus and to bring her in if they were still concerned. By the afternoon Terry took Lydia to the surgery for an emergency appointment. The doctor immediately arranged an emergency transfer to hospital. Terry and Jodie were told that Lydia was critically ill with meningitis and septicaemia. As a result of her illness both of her legs needed amputation below the knee.

Lydia successfully sued the NHS in 2011 for over £1.7 million after the GPs’ admitted that “more could have been done” for her. Despite all of this however Lydia is in training for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and is receiving coaching from Hayley Ginn, who also trained with Paralympic gold medal winner Jonnie Peacock. I am very humbled by Lydia’s story which demonstrates real determination to succeed in the face of physical disability.

Lydia’s story shows that with motivation, inspiration and support life can be very fulfilling after an amputation, and she is not alone. ‘500 miles’ is a charity co-founded by Olivia Giles after she lost both hands and feet when her GP failed to diagnose a form of meningitis which resulted in gangrene spreading through her limbs. As a result of her injury Olivia was inspired to set up the charity to support amputees in less fortunate parts of the world.

PACE Rehabilitation has also provided essential equipment to allow ‘Walking with the Wounded’, a team of former soldiers who have all suffered injuries requiring amputations to complete their expedition to the North Pole in 2011 and are planning a similar trek to the South Pole later this year.

Failing to diagnose meningitis can be devastating, but the Clinical Negligence Team at Withy King can help to recover compensation for the pain and suffering caused and also to ensure that life is maintained to as high a standard as possible following an amputation resulting from clinical negligence.

If you feel that you or a loved one have been injured as a result of misdiagnosis or delayed treatment and wish to consider suing the NHS or suing a Doctor for malpractice it is important that you contact a specialist medical negligence lawyer.

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