For Magdalena Malec and her partner Robert, the news of a baby to complement their existing family was cause to celebrate. But the joy of pregnancy soon turned to horror, when an ectopic pregnancy and subsequent botched medical care resulted in life-changing and catastrophic injuries.
Christmas was fast approaching when a pregnant Magdalena Malec attended Luton and Dunstable University Hospital for a scan. The news was not good, with the results indicating she had miscarried.
This discovery was devastating enough, but when she was admitted to the gynaecology ward on Christmas Day, suffering unbearable pain, Ms Malec's life was to change forever.
Diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy, where the fertilised egg had become lodged in the fallopian tube, urgent surgery was required. Although the patient had a raised temperature, due to the serious nature of her condition a decision was made to press ahead with the procedure. She was given the antibiotic co-amoxiclav.
Following the surgery, Ms Malec's temperature remained high and she developed a rash on her legs. These symptoms were ascribed to an allergic reaction to the antibiotics. The medication was changed but her condition continued to deteriorate, leading to septic shock, acute kidney damage and blood clots in her bloodstream (disseminated intravascular coagulation).
Ms Malec was transferred to the intensive therapy unit in order to receive multiple organ support. Meanwhile, the decreased blood supply to her limbs, due to the blood clots, resulted in the onset of gangrene.
The extent of her injuries meant specialist care was required and she was subsequently moved to a hospital explicitly equipped to handle her myriad of issues.
She underwent regular dialysis and eventually a transplant to remedy her kidney failure, but tragically the gangrenous limbs were beyond saving. Further surgery was required to remove the affected limbs, with both legs below the knee, her right arm below the elbow and the fingers of her left hand all being amputated.
The healthcare professionals at the Luton and Dunstable University Hospital had failed to recognise the symptoms of sepsis, attributing Ms Malec's rash to an allergic reaction. Consequently, the necessary treatment to contain the condition and prevent it from progressing to the extent that organ failure and gangrene occurred was not provided in time.
If she had received timely treatment, it would have prevented the need for gruelling dialysis, transplant and multiple amputations.
Under the circumstances that led to Ms Malec's admission to hospital, her raised temperature and itchy rash should have acted as ‘red flags' that alerted the staff to the possibility of sepsis. The appropriate protocol for such an event should then have been followed, but errors meant that diagnosis did not take place until she had gone into septic shock and by that time her condition had reached the point of no return.
It was this avoidable medical negligence that has left Ms Malec reliant on a bionic dominant right hand, prosthetic legs, kidney transplant and lifelong medication increasing her risk of infections.
And it’s not only Ms Malec who is severely affected by the ongoing difficulties: "My children were watching their mother with black limbs from which pus was weeping. Even today they ask why their mother does not have arms and legs. They experience this as much as I do. I think that this had a huge impact on their psychological condition."
David Thomas, who acts for Ms Malec in her compensation claim commented, "The catastrophic chain of events which led to Magdalena’s near death and horrendous injuries were completely avoidable had the hospital trust followed its own sepsis protocol. There were a number of missed opportunities or 'red flags' which were not acted upon until it was too late."
"If diagnosed early enough, sepsis is easily treated with antibiotics but despite recent awareness campaigns, mistakes such as this are still happening. It’s tragic."
"Now my life is not a life, it is vegetation – a fight for life. I am not the kind of person who likes to ask for help but now I am forced to because I meet obstacles everywhere I turn. Every failure brings on difficult situations at home, which is badly affecting my quality of life."
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