A doctor has been awarded a six-figure settlement after she nearly died from post-surgical complications.

Caroline Clark was a consultant radiologist when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2008.

She underwent a total thyroidectomy at Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The three hour operation went well, but the care she received thereafter almost cost Dr Clark her life.

The first mistake was that she was sent to a general ward, rather than an intensive care ward. She claims she had “no post-operative care and no pain relief.”

“I had to take myself to the toilet with my drip because there was no one to help me”, she said.

Hypocalcaemia complications

The morning following the operation she awoke with the symptoms of hypocalcaemia – a known complication of thyroid surgery when calcium levels in the blood drop to a dangerously low level.

A junior doctor who Dr Clark had herself trained agreed. But despite the blood tests confirming this diagnosis, two doctors over-ruled the junior doctor’s decision and discharged Dr Clark from hospital.

Dr Clark, 54, believes she was discharged so that the hospital would meet its admission targets, in turn avoiding a penalty.

During her first night at home she awoke at 5am with tightly clenched hands. Because of her medical training she knew she was experiencing a carpopedal spasm which happens when calcium drains away from the body.

Carpopedal spasm is life-threatening and requires emergency treatment. Dr Clark managed to call an ambulance but it took 20 minutes to arrive. The nursing staff at the hospital had not been forewarned of her arrival and did not know what to do. Thankfully a cardiologist walked by and ordered emergency calcium injections.

This occurred again the next day, and again it was only when a consultant physician intervened that Dr Clark’s condition was stabilised with a calcium drip.

“Nobody seems to really care”

Since the ordeal Dr Clark has developed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and has had to retire on medical grounds. She is only alive because she was able to diagnose her own condition, something which has left her disillusioned with the National Health Service.

“I’m a trained clinician with a wealth of experience and I was able diagnose myself and realise I needed urgent treatment very quickly. It was my response to my own condition which saved my life. But if I had been an ordinary patient what would have happened to me?” she said.

“Nobody seems to really care. The general attitude seems to be ‘get them in’, ‘get them out’ and hit the targets. It’s a whole culture that has become institutionalised and needs to be changed.”

Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust admitted liability and agreed an out-of-court six-figure settlement.

Have you experienced something similar?

If you were rushed out of hospital too early and went on to suffer post-surgical complications, you need to talk to a solicitor about the care you received. Contact us at Glynns today.

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