I had to go under the knife again and again – and then things got even worse... Leigh Wilson, 42, Coulsdon, Surrey
After surgery, I felt like l'd been hit by a truck
Lying on the couch in the GP’s surgery, I waited patiently as the doctor examined my stomach.
It was November 2013 – and days before, I’d noticed a lump protruding from my belly.
‘I think it might be a hernia,’ the doctor said.
She explained this is when an internal part of the body begins pushing through the muscles in the stomach, and I’d need an operation.
‘It’s a routine procedure,’ I was told.
But I went back to the home I shared with my dad Les, 62, and sons Callum, 14, and Theo, 8, feeling worried.
I was Dad’s carer, and had my boys to look after, too.
I didn’t have time to be ill!
‘We’ll cope, love,’ Dad reassured me.
I was referred to the hospital three weeks later for an ultrasound scan, but was still waiting for the operation to be scheduled.
But on 27 December 2013, I was cleaning out the stables where I kept my three horses, when I doubled over in agony and fell to the floor.
My son Callum called an ambulance, which rushed me to East Surrey Hospital. There, I was told I’d need to have my hernia operation right away.
I called a friend to pick up Callum from the stables.
Terrified, I quickly texted Dad to tell him, then I was rushed to surgery.
When I came round, I learnt that the surgeon had found two hernias, and that they’d been repaired with mesh.
‘We’ll need to keep you in for a few days to recover,’ the doctor told me.
The hospital wasn’t far from my home, but involved two bus changes – too many for my boys to visit.
So I called to tell them how it had gone.
‘I feel rough,’ I said. ‘But I should be better soon.’
I was discharged five days later and told to rest.
‘Easier said than done with my lot,’ I laughed to the nurse.
The following morning, as I gingerly padded downstairs for breakfast, I felt something damp against my skin.
The bottom of my top was soaked through. Hitching it up, I found the dressing covering my stomach was dripping, too – with horrible, yellow pus.
I went to the GP, and then back to the hospital, where the doctors found
I had an infection.
I was given a Medi-Vac – a small machine that sucks infection through a pipe into a bag, to keep the wound clean.
I was unable to drive, to pick my kids up from school, or look after the horses.
It was so frustrating!
I longed to be better.
But then, in August 2014, I found another lump next to the wound and had to be taken in for another operation. Nightmare!
When I woke up after the operation, I felt like I’d been hit by a truck.
‘Your body’s been through a lot,’ the doctor said.
Discharged five days later, I collapsed into bed as soon as I got home.
The next morning, an awful smell jolted me awake. I felt something cold and damp pressing against my body.
Oh my God, I’ve wet myself,
But as I peeled open my eyes, I realised it was much worse.
My screams brought my sons charging to my room.
Blood and a yellowish liquid curdled together in a giant puddle around me, seeping into the mattress.
It looked like a murder scene. Looking down at my wound,
at least three of the 20 staples holding the gaping hole together had vanished.
I gingerly put a hand to my stomach as I stood up, terrified my intestines might come tumbling out.
‘Call an ambulance!’ I yelled. In A&E, the doctors found I had another infection, and it’d eaten away at the mesh used to repair the other hernias. I had to go in for another op.
With each operation, I spiralled further into depression. My stomach looked like a hot-cross bun from all the surgeries, and everywhere I went, I had to carry the Medi-Vac.
I felt helpless, in so much agony I couldn’t even walk up my own stairs.
I hoped that would be the end of it, but in August 2016, I was back again with another hernia.
‘Why is this happening to me?’ I wept.
The surgery was booked for two months before I was due to fly to Disney World in Florida with my boys.
I’d booked the trip a year in advance, and I’d been really looking forward to it.
Luckily, in October 2016 – just a day before we were due to fly – I was cleared to go.
‘Disney World, here we come!’ I cheered to Theo and Callum as we took our seats on the plane.
But as soon as we took off, something didn’t feel right.
Sparks of pain shot through my stomach repeatedly.
‘Mum, are you
OK?’ Callum asked, concerned.
Not wanting to worry him, I gave a weak smile.
But after we landed, the pain got worse. I could barely move – the only way I could get around the park was in a wheelchair.
I knew I needed to go to a hospital, but I was in a foreign country and worried what would happen.
As soon as our plane touched down in the UK, I was rushed to hospital.
‘All we can do for you is exploratory surgery to see what might be causing the pain,’ the doctor told me.
Soon, I was being wheeled back through those all-too-familiar theatre doors.
I came round to the kind face of a doctor. He took a deep breath and broke the news to me.
‘One of the surgeons found a piece of VAC dressing foam inside the wound,’ he explained.
‘How did this happen?’ I asked, gobsmacked.
I learnt how it’d been left behind three months earlier, after my August operation.
Squeezing my eyes shut, I held back tears.
My faith in the hospital had been shattered.
Reluctantly, I had to go back for a further two hernia operations.
But after I lodged an official negligence claim against the NHS, I had to continue my treatment privately at St Anthony’s Hospital in Cheam.
I had my last hernia op in June last year – and, fingers crossed, that’s the last of it. But, when I look in the mirror, the nightmare continues. Angry purple scars criss-cross my tummy where my belly button should be.
My confidence has been shot. Before the operation, I’d been thinking
about dating again, but now the thought fills me with fear.
I am looking into plastic surgery, to improve the way my tummy looks and erase the reminders of my four years of hell.
I’ve missed so much, not being able to be there for my son through his GCSEs and having to sit on the sidelines at Disney World.
Moments I will never get back.
I was terrified my intestines might tumble out
Edward Cetti, Medical Director at Surrey & Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, said, ‘We confirm that Ms Leigh Wilson has made a claim against the Trust. The Trust has investigated and admitted that there were shortcomings in Ms Wilson’s care, and we would like to repeat the apology made in the Trust’s response to her on 30 October 2018. Our solicitors continue to liaise with Ms Wilson to try and resolve her claim.’
I spiralled into depression
My poor stomach gaped open... SHOCKING PICTURE!
Disney World with the boys – but I was in so much pain...