Northamptonshire, England – Thirty-five-year-old mother of two, Debbie Thomason, is permanently paralyzed and housebound. She claims doctors at the Northampton General Hospital (NHS) misidentified cauda equina syndrome (CES), a serious spinal condition, for typical lower back pain. The misdiagnosis resulted in her paralysis when she sneezed and collapsed in debilitating pain in May 2011. She is now suing over clinical negligence.
Debbie has undergone additional surgeries, but the eight day delay in a proper diagnosis has left her with very limited mobility. She can only walk a few yards and is essentially housebound. Debbie has had to give up her job as a foster parent and is absolutely distraught over the ordeal and its consequences, reports the Daily Mail.
“My life has been completely shattered by the permanent damage to my spine, which I believe could have been prevented if I had received the care I urgently needed.”
Debbie had previously suffered from sciatica, damage to the sciatic nerve in the lower spine that causes pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling in the legs. The initial cause of her sciatica was not disclosed.
“I had sciatica at the time but nothing like this. It was basically caused by a simple sneeze as I was coming out of my bathroom. I never dreamed it could lead to being disabled. I feel so angry that this has happened and that nothing can be done for me. By taking legal action I hope to highlight my case to the trust and help to save other people from going through what I have. While it is too late for me, it may not be for someone else.”
Her husband Darren, 37, has had to give up his job as a bricklayer to become a full-time foster parent and look after the couple’s children Jamie, 15, and Bethany, 12. He is also a full time caregiver to Debbie who cannot bathe or dress herself and needs assistance going to the toilet.
Lower back pain is very common, affecting millions of people. In most cases, you don’t need surgery for back pain. In rare cases, severe back pain can be a sign of cauda equina syndrome (CES), an uncommon condition that usually requires urgent surgical treatment. People with cauda equina syndrome often are admitted to a hospital as a medical emergency.
CES is a disorder which affects a bundle of nerve roots called cauda equina, located in the spinal cord of the lumbar. They send and receive messages to and from your legs, feet, and pelvic organs. In patients, something compresses on the spinal nerve roots and requires immediate treatment to prevent lasting damage. This can lead to incontinence or possibly permanent paralysis of the legs (paraplegia) if the patient does not undergo surgical intervention.
CES occurs more often in adults than in children but can occur in children who have a spinal birth defect or have had a spinal injury. The most common causes of cauda equina syndrome are severe ruptured disks in the lumbar area, a narrowing of the spinal canal (stenosis), a spinal lesion or tumor, spinal infection, inflammation, hemorrhage, or fracture, a complication from a severe lumbar spine injury such as a car crash, fall, gunshot, or stabbing, or from a birth defect such as an abnormal connection between blood vessels (arteriovenous malformation).