Newport paralysed teenager Sophie Tyler looks to future

A teenager left paralysed from the waist down by a hospital error has spoken of her personal battle and her dreams for the future.

A spinal anaesthetic was wrongly left in place after Sophie Tyler, 17, of Risca, near Newport, had a gall stone operation.

Sophie now wants to go to university but said when she heard she would never walk again in 2008 she wanted to die.

Birmingham Children's Hospital has apologised and admitted liability.

Sophie underwent surgery in 2008 when she was 14, but a pain-killing epidural infusion was not removed for two days, permanently damaging her spinal cord.

She told BBC Wales of her horror when she realised she was paralysed.


"When I first came home I was depressed - I wouldn't get out of bed.

"I would just lay there wishing it had never happened or wishing they had killed me because I had to live with the reality and the consequences of somebody else's mistake.

"It's so undignified having to ask for help all the time, it's horrible."

Sophie went into surgery on 27 May 2008, but a day later she complained of numbness in her right leg.

After two days of receiving the epidural, the numbness had spread to both legs and Sophie was barely able to move her feet.

She said: "I didn't realise anything was wrong at first because there was pain in my stomach from the operation and I looked at the millions of tubes and worried about silly things like weddings I was going to and worrying about what I could wear with all the tubes.

Image caption Sophie, pictured as a girl dancing

"It wasn't really until the Thursday that I really panicked and there were lots of doctors coming and poking me and whacking my feet."

Sophie underwent an MRI scan, which revealed that the anaesthetic had entered the spinal cord and damaged the membranes, paralysing her from the waist down.

She said: "It wasn't until a few hours later that a consultant came to speak to me. He was a neurosurgeon and he said 'There has been nerve damage, we don't know the full extent, you may walk tomorrow, next week, or your may never recover'."

Sophie said the reality of the situation did not sink in and a month later she became excited when she found she was able to wiggle a big toe.

Ongoing case

"The reality didn't set set in until I came out of hospital because I was sheltered from it.

"Nothing was fully explained because there was an unknown element and nobody could give me answers like 'You'll never walk again'."

When Sophie came out of hospital she was unable to return home to her family's Grade II-listed house because it has steps in the front and back garden, so they had to move in with her grandparents.

"I had to get access through a neighbour's garden and I didn't have a bathroom or any dignity.

"It was nice we were home, but that's when the reality hit me- it was never going to be how it was."

Sophie said she has recovered from her earlier depression, although she still has dark days.

She is back at school, although cannot attend full time due to ill health, but hopes to go to university.

"I still go to school, but everything is a lot harder.

"I'm relieved the hospital has admitted liability but it's still an ongoing case and it's still a fight.

"At first it was the relief of feeling like I wasn't lying. A lot of the time I felt guilty and like it was my fault it happened.

"The money will provide the support and will mean I can look at living on my own without worrying about my mum being there with the other kids.

"I can look at going to university rather than living at home."

Dr Vin Diwakar, chief medical officer at Birmingham Children's Hospital, said: "We are deeply sorry for the unimaginable distress we have caused Sophie and her family as a result of the care she received at our hospital three years ago.

"The care we provided fell below our usual high standards and since then we have implemented a whole series of changes to try to ensure that this never happens again."

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