Woman developed a septic infection after not being provided with antibiotics for a cat bite.
Last summer, Joanne* was bitten by a cat whilst out with her sister. She immediately treated the area with an antiseptic wipe and was advised she should attend hospital as soon as possible to request antibiotics.
Joanne attended the nearest hospital straight away and, on arrival, explained what had happened. Around 20 minutes later, Joanne was seen by a triage nurse; she provided her medical history, explained she suffered from Lupus and explained the cat bite. The nurse confirmed that she would need to be reviewed by a doctor and asked her to return to the waiting area.
A doctor reviewed Joanne’s hand, pressing to check for any infection, however there was just blood coming out of the wound. The doctor advised he was going to give the area a wipe and then applied a dressing to the deepest wound. The remaining wounds were left undressed.
At the time, Joanne’s sister, who had attended A&E with her, questioned whether antibiotics would be required. They were advised antibiotics would not be needed and that the hospital did not administer antibiotics for cat bites, these only being given for dog bites. Joanne’s sister asked if they should be provided as a precaution due to Joanne’s autoimmune disease, but the doctor confirmed that although he was aware of Joanne’s Lupus he didn’t feel antibiotics were necessary.
Joanne was provided with a print-out detailing the possibility of infection and what to do if this occurred. She was advised to buy breathable plasters and not to get the wound wet.
When leaving the hospital, Joanne’s arm was very sore and she was conscious of people around her, just in case anyone bumped her arm.
At the time of the bite, Joanne had been visiting family and therefore returned to her mother’s house. She was feeling unwell and put this down to delayed shock as she had felt calm during the ordeal.
That evening, Joanne continued to experience pains in her arm and went to bed early due to feeling unwell. The following morning she was unable to wake up properly. Normally Joanne had no trouble getting out of bed once awake, but on this occasion she didn’t feel right and couldn’t move properly.
Joanne’s sister came to check on her and found her to be drowsy. She noticed Joanne’s arm was very red from her wrist to her elbow, and decided to call 111 for assistance as Joanne’s breathing had become irregular and shallow.
The 111 service was unable to get someone out to see Joanne and therefore an appointment was made for her to be seen at a local hospital later in the day. Joanne’s sister decided to call the original hospital they had attended and was advised as they weren’t close by to call 999. She took this advice and an ambulance arrived within several minutes, taking Joanne to the nearest hospital.
At this point, Joanne was incoherent and had a very high temperature, upon arrival she was reviewed in A&E where doctors confirmed she was suffering from a septic infection. It was advised that Joanne’s wound would need to be washed out, so the operation was scheduled to be carried out later in the evening.
Joanne was placed on intravenous antibiotics and paracetamol to help with her high temperature. She was transferred to a ward around 8pm and an anaesthetist came to visit her to explain the procedure. Despite being told that the operation would take place later in the evening, Joanne was visited by another surgeon who instead advised that the operation would be carried out the following day, and she would be the first patient seen.
Unfortunately, Joanne’s operation didn’t take place until 11pm the following evening, meaning she was left nil by mouth for a prolonged period of time and unable to take her Lupus medication.
The operation finally took place in the evening; this involved making the wound on Joanne’s arm bigger so the surgeon could perform a washout procedure.
After the procedure, Joanne was given further antibiotics and was starting to feel a lot better. She was advised to keep her arm raised and not to get the area wet.
Several days later, Joanne was discharged from the hospital with a course of antibiotics. She had been due to return home the day before, however wasn’t fit enough to travel and therefore stayed with her mother for a further five days to recover.
We investigated Joanne’s claim and, in January this year, the hospital trust accepted there was a failure to prescribe antibiotics when she came to the hospital with a serious cat bite. We successfully settled Joanne’s case for £6000 after receiving an early admission from the hospital trust.
Chloe Westwell, a trainee medical negligence solicitor, handled Joanne’s case and said,
I hope that the compensation Joanne has received will go towards helping her and her family move on from this ordeal. This case just highlights the importance of effective antibiotic treatment and dealing with animal bites in the appropriate way, to ensure that the patient isn’t put at risk of further problems. I wish Joanne all the best for the future.
*Joanne’s name has been changed to protect her identity