A GRAN died in agony after a bungled operation left her bowel leaking into her body for SEVEN years.
Julie Connell's bowel was damaged during surgery to remove a cancerous kidney in 2013.
Following the procedure at Hereford County Hospital, chef Julie suffered repeated infections and abscesses as a result of the blunder.
But it wasn't until 2019,after being referred to a specialist at another hospital, two perforations in her bowel were identified.
The 58-year-old's condition continued to deteriorate and she died from acute respiratory distress caused by abdominal sepsis in August 2020.
David, Julie's husband, is now calling for lessons to be learned and is supporting World Sepsis Day on September 13 to raise awareness about the warning signs.
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The training advisor said: "It was awful seeing everything Julie had to go through in her final years.
"She went from being a happy, outgoing and independent person to someone who lived in pain and was reliant on others.
"Julie was my best friend and life without her will never the be the same for any of us.
"There's not a day goes by where we don't think about her or the void in our lives."
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Solicitors representing Julie's family said she could have made a "full recovery" had her initial complaints of pain been listened to back in 2013.
Signs of sepsis
Sepsis can manifest in a number of different ways and it signs can be hard to spot.
Symptoms can even resemble other conditions, like the flu or chest infection.
But if you think you or someone you look after has symptoms of sepsis, call 999 or go to A&E.
- Pale, blotchy or blue skin, lips or tongue
- A rash that does not go away when you roll a glass over it
- Finding it hard to breathe or breathing very fast
- Feeling or acting confused
- Finding it harder to talk, slurred speech or not making sense
- Being sleepier than normal or finding it very hard to wake up
- Feeling very poorly or like something is really wrong with your body
- Not peeing all day
- Feeling very hot, very cold or shivering
- Not eating normally
- Being sick
Source: NHS England
Julie, who had four children and three grandchildren, complained of ongoing pain and was diagnosed with abdominal sepsis, for which she was given antibiotics.
Sepsis is when the body overeacts to an infection in the body, and healthy tissues are attacked. It can lead to organ failure and death very quickly.
David said: "From 2013, onwards our lives revolved around Julie's health.
"It felt like she was regularly complaining of pain and was in and out of hospital.
"She would be diagnosed with sepsis and be given antibiotics but it didn't really feel like the doctors were getting to the root of her condition and treating the cause.
"Instead Julie had to put up with drainage bags being attached to her for months on end.
"Julie loved having the grandkids over but wasn't able to look after them on her own."
Despite having drainage bags fitted, fluid continued to leak into the Julie's body.
In 2017, she underwent surgery to try to repair her bowel, but the damaged section wasn't removed as it should have been.
David said: "Even after surgery in 2017, Julie continued to suffer with infection, leakage and stoma issues.
"Julie was a fighter but sadly there was only so much her body could take."
Before her death she had instructed medical negligence lawyers Irwin Mitchell to investigate her care under Wye Valley NHS Trust.
The Trust, which runs Hereford County Hospital, admitted "missed opportunities" to remove part of Julie's damaged bowel in 2013 and 2017.
An investigation found that if Julie had had a stoma fitted in 2013, it was likely she would have survived the following procedures.
Following Julie's death, David continued the case in her memory.
David said: "Julie was an extrovert. She was very attractive, tall and commanded any room she walked into.
"She was immensely vibrant and the life and soul of our family.
"Cooking was her passion. She had a true love of food and cooking.
"Before Julie was ill, life was very socially centred. She had many friends and there were always people at our house.
"However, all that changed when she started being unwell."
He added: "I fervently hope that by speaking out I can help raise awareness of the suffering Julie went through in the hope of preventing others having to go through the same."
Solicitor Lucy Macklin, who is representing Julie's relatives, said: "The last few years of Julie's life were incredibly difficult, not only for her but her family.
"The independent evidence we obtained showed that if further investigations had been carried out when Julie started complaining of pain following her initial surgery, her leaking bowel would have been identified, Julie would have received appropriate treatment and she would have made a full recovery from those complications.
"She wouldn't have suffered years of pain connected to the ongoing bowel issues she went through.
"Understandably David and the rest of Julie's family remain devastated by her death.
"Worrying issues in the care Julie received have been admitted. It's now vital that lessons are learned.
"Julie's death vividly highlights the dangers of sepsis.
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"Through our work we continue to see too many families affected by the condition, therefore, we join David in supporting World Sepsis Day."
The family are now pursuing compensation from the Trust.
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