During the operation, a tear was inadvertently made in the aorta (the large artery taking blood from the heart to the rest of the body), and the surgeon decided to clamp above and below the tear, in order to repair it. The procedure took in the region of 67 minutes, which meant that the blood going to the rest of NJ's body (particularly the spine) was severely compromised for that time. As a result, Neela has been left with grossly impaired lower spinal cord function. Her legs are weak and she needs to use a frame to walk. Her legs cannot feel pain or temperature, and her bladder and bowel function are impaired. It is likely that she will be wheelchair bound by the time that she is 50 - 60.
We obtained an expert report, which confirmed that the surgeon should have checked the amount of blood going to the rest of NJ's body during the clamping time. If he had done this, on balance of probability he would have discovered that blood flow was insufficient, and he would have then had the opportunity of performing bypass surgery to allow oxygenated blood through to the rest of Neela's body.
Witness statements were exchanged, with the Defendants providing statements from the two surgeons who were performing the operation, the anaesthetist, the consultant cardio-thoracic surgeon who provided advice over the telephone, and the registered nurse. Our only witness statement was from the Claimant herself.
After exchange of expert statements, we applied for permission from the court to instruct a further expert, on the basis that the surgeons/anaesthetist involved in the operation were likely to give evidence based on their opinion as well as on fact. The Defendants would therefore in effect have 5 experts commenting on treatment, compared to our one.
Needless to say, the application was vigorously defended by the Defendants, but after 2 hearings, the Master agreed that a further expert report could be obtained on behalf of the Claimant. Shortly after, a "round-the-table negotiation" was arranged between both sets of legal representatives, which Neela attended as well. The Defendants made a low offer, which was rejected, however, over the course of the next few days they were encouraged to increase this offer and this was accepted.
Please note that all names have been changed to maintain anonymity.