Arfon’s story: Life-changing injury for North Wales adventurer
A catastrophic error
It was a routine operation for 52-year-old adventure-lover Arfon Hardy; corrective surgery on a herniated disc meant a trip from his home in Mold, North Wales to the Walton Centre in Liverpool.
Tragically the surgeon made a catastrophic error during the operation – known as a laminectomy – and unnecessarily removed an anterior thoracic disc, leaving Arfon paralysed from the waist down.
The surgeon’s mistake in June 2017 resulted in a harrowing five-year claims journey for Arfon, during which time he experienced the best and worst of care during rehabilitation.
Arfon had travelled widely before his accident. A former merchant seaman and adrenaline junkie, Arfon travelled the world for over 20 years. Any opportunity to jump out of a plane, dive a coral reef (he was a master diver), or hang-glide down a mountain, Arfon would be the first to have a go.
Now permanently wheelchair-bound, adventure was seemingly over as Arfon faced 18 months rehab in an NHS spinal unit facilities in Southport. During this time, he suffered from discitis, a pulmonary embolism, a heart attack and recurrent urinary tract infections, all stemming from the operation.
Arfon hadn’t completely lost his spirit of adventure, taking himself off for the day against advice to go paragliding ; he wanted to prove to himself that, even in a wheelchair, it was possible to push the boundaries.
At the end of his 18 months rehabilitation, Arfon was asked to leave the spinal unit in Southport. At this time, he had no suitable accommodation. He quickly needed to find a suitable property to rent from his hospital bed, and spent £6500 of his own savings to adapt the property to allow him disabled access.
Once he was discharged, the Local Authority-provided care but this came nowhere near to meeting his needs.
Arfon contacted Fletchers Solicitors for help, and in December 2018 the process of managing the claim ground into gear. In October 2020 The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust made an admission of liability. Associate and Chartered Legal Executive, Ami Dollery, explained that having gained an admission of liability, she was able to obtain an interim payment of £800K from the Trust, which was quickly put to good use.
On 31 May 2021 Arfon checked into the STEPS rehabilitation centre in Sheffield, where for the next five months he was given the care he needed to rebuild his life, including the arrival of Jasper, his assistance dog and new best friend.
He said he was shocked by the contrast between state-provided care and the private rehabilitation from STEPS, and underlined the importance of getting a substantial interim payment so that he could afford the £7000 a week cost of his Sheffield stay.
Without that interim payment, Arfon’s future looked very bleak, relying on the ‘barely there’ care service from the local authority.
Ami said: “Arfon’s plight underlines the value of getting expert legal support. The interim payment changed his life chances after the accident, not only through STEPS, but also new equipment, and enabling him to buy a place to live that could be specially designed for his needs as a wheelchair user.”
Final settlement and looking to the future
In 2022, five years after the operation, Arfon received a settlement of £3.125m, as well as annual payments of £100K for life, to compensate for the mistake that led to his life-changing injury.
Ami said: “Five years is a long time to wait, but very serious injuries like Arfon’s are complex and we work closely with NHSR (NHS Resolution, the legal team that handles clinical negligence cases for the NHS) to establish all the facts and go through the evidence, so that the final settlement fairly reflects the severity of the injury and ensures the final compensation is appropriate.”
Arfon is now back in North Wales with Jasper, his Golden Retriever Assistance Dog and living a full and active life. Ami is in regular contact with Arfon:
“We often develop very close relationships with our clients, as we go through the long drawn-out claims process together. Arfon’s story is a harrowing one, but I’m amazed and humbled by the way he has grabbed back his life, and found his way to a positive future.”
“It’s why I love this job, and although it is invariably an emotional rollercoaster, I feel hugely proud to have played my part in bringing Arfon’s case to a successful conclusion.”
Explaining why he wanted to tell his story, Arfon said:
“I wanted to tell my story because, even when you feel that there is no life for you after a life-changing experience, there still is. That’s with having family and friends to support you and also solicitors like Fletchers, who, especially Ami Dollery, has not only been my solicitor, but has become my friend as well during the five years she has looked after my case.
“Without Fletchers solicitors help, support and total understanding for myself, I truly believe I would not be where I am now. That includes, physically, mentally and actually looking forward to a future life now in many different ways. Ami , my solicitor has treated me not just as a client, but as a human being.
“At the end of the day, all of the money I have received will not bring back what I have lost, the pain I have had to suffer. Yes, I would happily give the money back instead of where I am now.
Having said that, the money I now have is helping me to get the care I now need, to plan for future exciting trips abroad along with more crazy adrenaline activities. To also tell other disabled people and able-bodied people to never give up. That the impossible is not always impossible even when people tell me no I can’t do that.”