A woman has been left visually impaired in her right eye after doctors caused permanent damage to her retina during laser surgery.
Our customer, Lesley Horrocks, 68, from Clitheroe, now suffers with significantly reduced vision in her right eye and is unable to see colours after doctors at Royal Blackburn Hospital carried out laser surgery and burned her retina.
Since March 1996, Lesley had been attending regular screenings to check her vision as she suffered from diabetes. In May 1998, it was recommended that she undergo laser eye surgery at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital because leaking and bleeding had been spotted behind her eye.
From 1998 to 2003, Lesley underwent laser surgery three times to both of her eyes at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, which were successful. She was then monitored regulary over the next eight years and was told no further treatment was deemed necessary.
In October 2011, Lesley was transferred to the Royal Blackburn Hospital for her regular checkups. One year later she was told she should have more laser eye surgey on her right eye to stem the bleeding at the back of her eye.
Despite Lesley raising concerns about going ahead with further laser surgery, staff at Royal Blackburn Hospital strongly recommended the surgey go ahead so she consented.
The surgery took place on 6th November 2012, and Lesley was told to return to the hospital six weeks later for a follow up. During her appointment on 14th December 2012, it was recommended that she be monitored regularly.
Just two months later, a further review of her condition found that the sight in her right eye was worsening and another session of laser surgery was recommended. This took place on 22nd February 2013 to reduce the risk of her losing sight in her eye, but it was noted that there was risk of damage to her central vision.
Lesley’s sight usually returned within a few hours after previous surgeries, but this time was different. Her vision remained blurred and she could not see anything out of the centre of her eye. The surgery should have been routine, particularly as Lesley had been through it on a number of occasions previously, without any issues. But, she quickly realised that her sight was not returning to normal.
I was really concerned that my vision wasn’t coming back after the surgery. I knew that it would be blurry for a few hours after the treatment, as that had been the case after every other procedure I’d had. But as the days passed by, I was really struggling to see anything out of my right eye –there was a grey patch across the centre of my vision that wouldn’t shift.Lesley Horrocks
Six days later when she attended her routine check-up, her vision still remained blurred and there had been no improvement since the laser surgery This was still the case during additional follow-ups on 7th March and 13th March 2013.
Almost two months after the surgery had been carried out, it was finally discovered that a deep collection of blood vessels had formed, and permanent damage had been caused to Lesley’s eye. It was recommended that she undergo a cycle of injections into her right eye to deal with the haemorrhage and restore her vision – one injection would be administered every month for three months.
Each injection was incredibly excruciating – I can’t really put the pain into words it was that horrific. I was so nervous about having the injection and I was told I needed more anaesthetic drops to numb the pain than any other patient. I couldn’t see the needle, but I could definitely feel the pressure of it going into my eye and could feel a severe, stabbing pain. I actually told the doctors after the second one that I couldn’t have any more as the pain was just too much, but I was advised to continue as it was the only way to get my vision back.
But despite having the full course of injections, I didn’t see any improvement and I started to face the realisation that the damage was probably going to be irreversible.Lesley Horrocks
Trying to remain optimistic, Lesley began another course of injections in June 2013. The sixth and final injection was administered to her eye in August 2013, but again she saw no improvement to her sight. As the pain was intolerable, she declined to have any more injections and her condition is now simply being monitored every couple of months.
Since the surgery in February 2013, her vision has remained the same and she is unable to focus on objects in the distance or up close, despite experiencing no issues with her left eye. She now has to be careful when going up and down stairs as she is unable to focus on the steps properly, which increases the chance of her suffering a fall.
Lesley contacted Fletchers to bring a claim against East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust to ensure this would not happen again. It was alleged that the Trust failed to apply the laser photocoagulation with sufficient care, and doctors failed to apply test exposures before carrying out the surgery which caused the macular haemorrhage (burning to retina) and permanent damage.
We settled Lesley’s case and she received £27,000 compensation in November 2017 after the issuing of court proceedings.
After Lesley’s case settled she thanked Fletchers and spoke about how she is moving on. “I’m extremely thankful for the support that I received from Fletchers Solicitors. They have been outstanding from the very start and they actually listened to me and wanted to help – this was all I wanted when the issue happened. I was fine before I had the final laser surgery and I knew something wasn’t right after it had been done. With the help of Fletchers, I’ve finally been able to come to terms with losing my sight and now I can begin to move on. I would recommend them to anyone, they’ve been absolutely brilliant, and I can’t thank them enough.”
Fiona Swarbrick, senior solicitor at Fletchers handled Lesley’s case and said:
Losing your sight would be an extremely daunting experience for anyone – we rely on our eyes for so much. For Lesley, this has been particularly difficult for her, especially given that she was unsure about going ahead with the final laser surgery in the first place. We’re just glad that the resolution of her case has allowed her to move on and get her life back on track. We hope that the compensation can go some way towards helping heal the pain that has been caused.