Knowing something is wrong
In 2014, Rumbidzia Kunaka was 11 days overdue with her first child and had been induced. Unfortunately, her baby was in distress, so the decision was made for her to undergo an emergency C-section.
Rumbidzia underwent the C-section and spent two days in hospital before being discharged home with her new-born baby. She was prescribed pain relief and a fresh dressing was placed on her C-section wound before she was discharged.
A few days after the emergency C-section, a community midwife visited Rumbidzia’s home to inspect her wound. The visit was very brief and the midwife said that everything was healing well. However, the midwife did comment on the unusual nature in which Rumbidzia’s wound had been stitched but stated each surgeon does it differently and it wasn’t causing any issues. Rumbidzia did ask when the stitches would be removed but the midwife checked her notes and confirmed they were dissolvable and would eventually go away on their own.
Over next few weeks, Rumbidzia was reviewed again, several times, by the community midwife. These were again brief visits, which Rumbidzia was unhappy with and complained to her GP practice about this. At one of the check-ups, the midwife commented on the stitching again but said it wasn’t causing any issues. During her last visit from the midwife, her wound wasn’t examined and she was simply asked how she was doing and about the baby’s development. Rumbidzia advised they were both doing well and therefore they were discharged from the care of the health visitor.
Following her discharge, over the next few days, Rumbidzia’s wound became very painful and she decided to attend her GP practice. She was advised this was normal and to be expected with the stitching from the C-section and she should give the wound time to heal properly.
At her 6 weeks post-natal check-up, the GP performed routine checks and examined her wound, advising it was all fine and she was recovering well from the C-section. However, Rumbidzia was still in pain and her wound was very sore at this stage. As she had been told this was normal she didn’t repeat this to the GP and they hadn’t mentioned there were any problems with it.
Rumbidzia carried on with life as normal, setting into life with her new child. However, over the next few years, the scar was painful; something which Rumbidzia considered normal as she was under the impression this was expected after an emergency C-section. Her pain would fluctuate depending on what activity she was doing and she’d often have good and bad days with the pain.
At times the pain would become worse, for example, if she stood upright or when sleeping. This meant over the years she needed to learn to adapt to the pain and simply believed this could be expected from her surgery.
Rumbidzia’s pain carried on for a number of years and in 2017 her wound became extremely painful, much worse than any pain she’d experienced before. Alongside the burning sensation, she also saw pus coming out of the wound.
Unable to clearly inspect the wound herself, Rumbidzia asked her sister-in-law to look at the wound for her. Her sister-in-law explained she could see a blue string in the wound and believed this may be stitching. Rumbidzia didn’t think this was the case as she’d been told the stitches would dissolve. Her sister-in-law took a photo, which showed her C-section scar was lumpy and there were small strings embedded within it.
At this point, Rumbidzia made an appointment to see her GP about the pus and burning sensation. They advised this was normal and just hair in the skin. Unsure on this advice, Rumbidzia showed the GP the photograph of her scar and explained how she thought it may be stitching.
After calling for a second opinion from a nurse and inspecting the wound further, her GP confirmed the blue stitching had been left in situ and wasn’t dissolvable as once thought. The GP explained these may have been temporary stitches using in surgery and were meant to be taken out.
The GP advised Rumbidzia to make a further appointment to have the stitches removed and they would simply cut the ends and pull them out. Unfortunately, the skin had started to heal over the stitches and had been in for over three years so Rumbidzia didn’t feel this was right. She contacted her local hospital which advised her to come in for a wound inspection.
The following week, Rumbidzia attended the hospital to have the retained stitches removed. During the removal, they were only able to remove around 5cm of them and continuing to pull them could cause more damage.
Rumbidzia was given medication to treat the infection in her scar and referred to have the remaining stitches removed. The procedure was very uncomfortable for Rumbidzia she needed to be administered more local anaesthetic during the procedure to help with the pain.
During the surgery, the consultant was unable to remove all the stitching due to how deeply it was embedded and therefore recommend she undergo another procedure under general anaesthetic this time. Rumbidzia decided to give herself time to consider if she wanted to undergo another procedure.
Rumbidzia felt she may have suffered medical negligence and decided to contact Fletchers to bring a medical negligence claim. We thoroughly investigated Rumbidzia’s case, obtaining her medical records and it was admitted by the Trust that the sutures should have been removed by the community midwife. In February 2018, we successfully settled Rumbidzia’s medical negligence claim for £7,500.
Unfortunately Rumbidzia is still suffering from pain; however, this isn’t as bad as it used to be. She can feel the wound is now healing and has been able to do more things on her own. She can aso now stand up straight and has signed up for the gym. She is still taking things steady but is glad she can now carry out normal everyday tasks without the concern of pain.
Andy Tindall, a lawyer at Fletchers handled Rumbidzia’s case and said,
For almost 3 years, Rumbidzia had no idea that she had stitches embedded into her skin and it was only after suffering an infection in the wound that it was discovered that the stitches from her C-section had not been removed. This case shows the important role that community midwives play and the attention to detail that is required when conducting home assessments.
I hope the compensation Rumbidzia has now received will help with her ongoing studies and allow her to now focus on her future with her young child.
Andy Tindall - Case Lawyer
Key case timeline
Rumbidzia developed an infection in her c-section wound after a three year delay in removing her sutures following a c-section.
We investigated Rumbidzia's claim and achieved a settlement of £7500.
Rumbidzia's pain has now decreased after having a procedure to remove some of the stitches. She has been able to get back to doing some of the things she enjoyed and hopefully she'll now be able to look towards putting the negligence behind her.