A mother is taking two hospital trusts to court over claims doctors failed to treat an ulcer on her foot for nearly a year which meant part of her leg had to be amputated.
Karen Webb, 47, is seeking compensation after accusing Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust and East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust of ignoring her concerns about the ulcer.
She alleges she saw a string of health professionals and was “consistently” told her foot was not infected.
But she was eventually in so much pain she said it felt as though her foot was “on fire” and she was relieved to learn it would need to be amputated, her lawyers said.
The former nursing home assistant has also complained after a picture of her infected foot was used to illustrate a medical journal on how to prevent and treat diabetic ulcers, according to law firm Slater and Gordon which is representing her.
Mrs Webb, who is now wheelchair-bound, said she was approached about using the picture just before the operation to remove her foot and half of her calf but was then “flabbergasted” to see how it was featured.
Lawyers have launched civil action against both trusts claiming they were negligent in their treatment towards her in appointments at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton and the Conquest Hospital in Hastings between March 24, 2014 – when she was first seen – and the amputation on March 2 the following year.
That same month, a picture of her foot appeared in an article on the prevention and management of diabetic foot ulcers in Community Wound Care published by MA Healthcare Ltd, the law firm said.
Mrs Webb, of Seaford, said: “The whole way along this awful experience I took photographic evidence of my foot and it’s clear as day things were getting progressively worse, but I was ignored.”
As the ulcer worsened, it cracked her heel bone and an infection of dead tissue and skin, called slough, could no longer be treated with antibiotics, her lawyers said.
Mrs Webb added: “But still there seemed to be no real sense of urgency in treating my condition.”
She claims she had to wait more than a week for an MRI scan and was told blood tests were clear despite the wound weeping, smelling and some of her skin turning black.
She said: “Towards the end of the infection it felt like my foot was on fire and I was being stabbed with a knife. The pain was shooting up my leg every second.
“When the doctors broke the news to me that I would be waking up without a foot and part of my leg, I was actually relieved. It had got so bad I was happy to lose part of my limb.”
She said she also suffered headaches, mood swings, tiredness and lethargy.
After losing part of her leg Mrs Webb said she became depressed and “felt like a freak”, adding: “A few weeks after losing my leg, the reality of what I had been through finally hit home.
“It wasn’t just my leg which was taken from me – I had been stripped of my independence too.”
Mrs Webb said she struggled to carry out chores she used to take for granted or walk short distances without help from her husband, Sean.
She added: “I can’t stand looking at my foot and I find the prosthetic leg too uncomfortable and difficult to wear. I feel like a freak which is hard when I used to take so much pride in my appearance.
“This has affected my life forever. Thank god I have my wonderful husband, without him I would have given up a long time ago.”
Emma Doughty, a clinical negligence lawyer at the firm, claimed the situation could have been “easily avoided” and accused the trusts of a “sustained and concerning lack of medical attention”.
She added: “Karen feels her life will never be the same again and she is devastated at her situation.”
Legal documents seen by Press Association were submitted to the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court in November.
Both trusts declined to comment while legal proceedings were ongoing.
East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust said: “This matter is currently being dealt with by the trust’s solicitors and as such we are unable to comment further.”
Brighton and Sussex University NHS Trust did not provide a statement when contacted but a spokesman said it was not inclined to comment at this stage.
Source: The Argus