AN internationally-renowned Hagley composer left severely disabled after a hospital blunder hopes lessons will be learned after winning his battle for justice against the NHS.
Andrew Downes, who has travelled the world attending performances of his compositions, was left wheelchair bound after medics at Dudley’s Russells Hall Hospital misdiagnosed his fractured spine as a urine infection.
The 61-year-old critically-acclaimed composer, whose work has featured on national and international TV and radio, was admitted to hospital after falling over at home in October 2009.
He complained of severe back pain and was given morphine, but the hospital diagnosed a urine infection and failed to send him for an X-ray which would have highlighted his fractured spine. He was also taken for painful walks round the ward which were likely to have caused further damage.
It was not until Mr Downes had lost all movement and feeling in his legs that he was taken for scans which highlighted the fractures to his spine that caused irreparable damage to his spinal chord.
The grandfather-of-three had suffered from inflammatory back pain and a fused spine for years, but managed to enjoy a successful career which saw him create 17 CDs, perform for royalty and receive a professorship from Birmingham Conservatoire.
Doctors, however, failed to consider his back condition which left him at high risk of spinal injury so Mr Downes took his case to medical law experts Irwin Mitchell who found a catalogue of errors.
The Trust has now apologised and admitted the care provided “fell below the standard he should have expected”.
But Mr Downes said: “I just hope they take note and improve their care in future.
“I wouldn’t want anyone to experience what I am going through.”
He said he knew “something wasn’t right” and it was not a urine infection causing his excruciating pain.
But he was put on morphine which left him disoriented and drifting in and out of consciousness; then when he woke up he recalls: “I had lost all feeling in my legs.
“It was a terrifying feeling. To be walking around one day, and then unable to move little more than 24 hours later was beyond belief.
“I have three young grandchildren and to be unable to run around and play with them is devastating.”
Medical law expert Timothy Deeming, from Irwin Mitchell in Birmingham, said his client had “shown incredible strength and resolution despite the disabilities he now faces as a result of the failures by Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Trust”.
He added: “Patient safety has to be the number one priority for any NHS trust and we hope the sub-standard level of care he received will not be repeated.
“We are now working with Andrew to ensure he receives the necessary funds and support to provide him with the life-long rehabilitation he now requires to live as independently as possible.”
A figure for compensation has not yet been determined but Paula Clarke, chief executive of the Trust, said she was pleased a financial settlement would be granted, adding: “Although no amount of money can undo the damage he has suffered, we hope it will provide financial security to Mr Downes and his family for the future.”
She said the Trust accepted there were “lessons to be learned” and added that additional staff training would minimise the risk of a recurrence in future.
Mr Downes, who has been determined to continue composing, remarkably returned to work just ten months after the fall.
He is now planning a fundraising concert in Birmingham in October to raise cash for paraplegic athletes.