Legal battle over claim medics left patient ‘locked in’ his own body

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Queen Alexandra Hospital
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A MAN left ‘locked’ inside his own body is suing the health authorities after a series of alleged blunders.

The 45-year-old, from Southsea, has been left paralysed from head to toe and is only able to move his eyes up and down.

But the stroke he suffered three years ago only killed part of his brain – leaving him completely aware of everything around him and trapped inside his motionless body.

His family claim failings at South Central Ambulance Service and Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust contributed to him having the condition, called locked-in syndrome.

The family wish to stay anonymous at this time.

Their solicitor associate, Patricia Wakeford, of Blake Lapthorn, said: ‘It’s a tragic case where a relatively young man has been left significantly disabled and will never be able to live the life he had before primarily due to the failure to identify and act on his signs and symptoms.’

The man, who was an IT manager and fitness enthusiast with no health problems, dialled 999 at about 1.20am on March 16, 2010, complaining of dizziness and slurred speech.

After being visited by a paramedic, the family say he was diagnosed with dehydration and hyperventilation and told to go to bed and sip water.

Still feeling ill, the man called an out-of-hours doctor, who recommended he call 999 again.

A second paramedic ordered the same treatment of bed rest and left the man in his Southsea flat, the family say.

He was eventually found collapsed semi-conscious on the floor by his front door – vomiting and struggling to breathe – by his family at about 12.30pm later that day.

After being taken to Queen Alexandra Hospital, his family say he was diagnosed with a stroke four days later. It followed a blockage in one of the main arteries to his brain.

He now lives in a specially-adapted room at his brother’s home in Southsea and requires 24-hour care.

The man’s sister-in-law told The News: ‘All he can do is look up and down.

‘He can’t look around him. He looks up for yes and down for no.

‘If he wants to say more than that we have a board with different letters of the alphabet.

‘He’s locked in his own body. He can’t get himself out and, because of that, he’s so angry about what has happened.

‘He feels so low and so depressed. If he wants to say anything it can take him 20 minutes just to get a sentence out. His life is ruined.’

She said legal action was not about the money.

‘We want them to pay attention and change their ways,’ she said.

‘Money is not going to make any difference to him. If somebody else comes up with the same symptoms, we want them to think twice and think “Could this be a stroke?”’

She added: ‘If all of them had done what they were supposed to do, he would not be like he is. From what we know he would have been disabled, but it would be a minor disability.’

Mrs Wakeford added: ‘This type of stroke does not just happen. It’s a gradual build-up.

‘He was getting the first indications of a stroke when he called the paramedics.

‘That’s why we are saying there was time to do something.’

A statement from the ambulance service said: ‘It would be inappropriate for South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust to comment on any case or claim whilst it is on going and the outcome is subject to due process of law.’

A trust spokeswoman said: ‘Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust can confirm that it has received notification of a clinical negligence claim from solicitors acting for the patient. This is being managed by the NHS Litigation Authority on behalf of the Trust. We are therefore unable to comment further on the case.’

LOCKED-IN syndrome is a condition in which a patient is aware and awake but cannot move or communicate verbally due to complete paralysis of nearly all voluntary muscles in the body except for the eyes.

The condition is caused by damage to specific portions of the lower brain and brainstem, with no damage to the upper brain.

Extremely rarely does any significant motor function return.

Within the first four months after its onset, 90 per cent of those with the condition die.

Kate Allatt, a mum-of-three from Sheffield, successfully recovered.

Now she runs Fighting Strokes and devotes her life to helping those with the condition.