Carrie Wright: Leeds hospital trust pay out over blunder

Image source, Family photo
Image caption,
Carrie Wright had very limited speech and required an electric wheelchair after suffering severe brain damage

The mother of a nine-year-old girl who died after suffering severe brain damage during a heart operation has been given £430,000 in compensation.

Carrie Wright, from Hull, was cooled down for two hours during the operation - more than twice the recommended amount of time.

She was subsequently unable to walk or stand unaided and she died, aged 20.

Her surgeon, Dr Nihal Weerasena, was struck off in January following a General Medical Council investigation.

The inquiry was into seven other cases.

Image caption,
Dr Nihal Weerasena was found to be guilty of misconduct and showed "reckless disregard for patient safety"

Dr Weerasena was referred to the GMC in 2014 after Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust reviewed its paediatric care services.

The previous year, children's heart operations at Leeds General Infirmary had been stopped for a fortnight on the orders of NHS England, amid concerns about the safety of the unit.

Carrie's mother, Dawn Clayton, said: "Prior to the operation, Carrie was just like any other active nine-year old girl.

"She left me early on the day of the operation and came back from surgery that evening changed forever.

"Yet she was not deterred, she was determined to live her life. We were so proud of her."

Image caption,
Carrie's mother, Dawn Clayton, said: "Words cannot describe how much I miss that girl. She was everything. We all miss her, there's a big hole there now"

Andrew Harrison, medical negligence lawyer at Hodge Jones and Allen, said surgical notes showed Carrie's body was cooled and put into circulatory arrest for 121 minutes.

At that time, circulatory arrest of more than 45 minutes was avoided by hospitals because it was regarded as likely to result in brain injury.

Image caption,
Andrew Harrison, medical negligence lawyer at Hodge Jones and Allen, said surgical notes showed Carrie's body was cooled and put into circulatory arrest for 121 minutes

Mr Harrison said none of the medical notes revealed why there was such a long period of circulatory arrest.

He said: "In the absence of any explanation in Dr Weerasena's notes, it can only be the case that he negligently failed to appreciate the risk of brain damage that the prolonged period of circulatory arrest could cause.

"If he had appreciated that risk, he would have taken steps to avoid it and there were alternatives as it was not an emergency."

Image source, Wright family
Image caption,
Carrie died in December 2014, eleven years after her operation

He said if circulatory arrest had been 45 minutes maximum it was "highly likely" that Carrie would not have been brain damaged and would be alive today."

Her mother has now received compensation from the NHS trust following a 10-year legal battle.

She said she received an apology from the hospital last year, 13 years after the operation.

"All the time we were adjusting to a new life with Carrie and fighting to make sure she received the right care, we were also in a long, hard battle with the hospital for them to admit liability," Ms Clayton said.

"I have always felt that they wanted to sweep this matter under the carpet.

"I can only wonder if there are other cases like Carrie's that have gone unreported and whether closer investigation by the hospital could have prevented these later cases from happening.

"My heart goes out to all those who have also suffered at the hands of Dr Weerasena."

Image source, Wright family
Image caption,
Carrie attended Portland College in Mansfield, a special college to assist with independent living

Dr Yvette Oade, Chief Medical Officer for Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "On behalf of the hospital I would like to express my sincere condolences to the family of Carrie, and deeply regret that we failed to provide the standard of care that she and her family were entitled to expect.

"I welcome the fact that this settlement has now been agreed with the NHS Litigation Authority."

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