For many years AX had enjoyed working as a secondary school maths teacher and later as an educational consultant. He had taught at schools in Botswana and the USA, as well as in England.
At the age of 56, AX began to experience chest pain and attended his GP on a number of occasions. He was diagnosed at first with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and later as having muscular problems. His symptoms continued to worsen over several months and when the pain became severe he attended an NHS walk-in centre where he was referred to A&E. He was kept in overnight but subsequently discharged with a suspected diagnosis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle.
Sadly, AX’s symptoms persisted and he began to experience weakness in his legs. AX attended and was discharged from A&E a further five times in a fortnight before doctors finally performed a CT scan. The scan revealed swelling of soft tissue around the spine. This should have prompted a number of urgent follow-up investigations.
Unfortunately, and despite increasing loss of power in his legs, proper investigations were not carried out until over a week later. Once they were, lymphoma of the spine was diagnosed. AX underwent a four-month course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy which cleared him of the cancer.
However, the delay in diagnosis and treatment led to an irreversible spinal cord injury, resulting in paraplegia. AX has been left with only residual power in his legs, such that he is now largely reliant on a wheelchair. He also developed problems with his bowel and bladder function as a result of his spinal cord injury.
The paraplegia had a profound psychological and physical impact on AX and he lost much of his independence. He was forced to give up his career and his wife became his full time carer. AX was also no longer able to enjoy his previous hobbies, which included running, gardening and cooking. He lived in a two-storey house and therefore had to manoeuvre himself dangerously up and down the stairs each day with the use of one stick whilst gripping the bannister tightly. In short, AX’s condition had a devastating and life-changing impact.
AX’s case was taken on by Stewarts, with Stewart Young, associate in the clinical negligence team, investigating the claim along with Antonia Jones, a partner in the clinical negligence team. A claim was brought against the NHS Hospital Trust. The Trust admitted liability for his paralysis at a relatively early stage and agreed to make a generous interim payment of damages to AX. This enabled him to pay for professional care and relieve some of the burden on his wife. It also covered the cost of a personal trainer, hydrotherapy and a physiotherapist.
However, the Trust disputed the severity and extent of AX’s condition and it was therefore not a straightforward path to settlement. AX and his wife had also always intended to retire to the South of France and still wanted to do so despite his injuries. The Trust was reluctant to accept this as part of the settlement.
At a settlement meeting, a £2.75m settlement award was negotiated for AX. This award will ensure that AX is able to purchase a suitably adapted ground floor property wherever he wants to live. He will also be able to fund all the care and private medical treatment he will need for the rest of his life. AX was keen to have a fully equipped gym at home as he had previously been fit and active and he also wanted to be able to continue with hydrotherapy sessions, which he found to be helpful.