Northampton widower receives apology after doctors carried out five surgeries to undo botched operation on husband

Gordon Withers, left, was left unable to care for his wife after the series of operations.
Gordon Withers, left, was left unable to care for his wife after the series of operations.

A 70-year-old pensioner died after doctors damaged the blood supply to his kidneys during routine surgery, Northampton General Hospital has admitted.

Gordon Withers, a former miner from Briar Hill, was left with permanent damage to his kidneys and bowel after doctors made "a catalogue of errors" in relation to a routine surgery.

On June 14, three years after Gordon's death, his family received compensation from Northampton General Hospital for his ordeal, which cut the blood supply to his kidneys and left him completely unable to digest food.

Gordon's son Wayne Butler said: "This whole ordeal has had a devastating effect on my mum, who now lives on her own, and understandably gets lonely a lot of the time.

"While Mum has grown a little stronger, she still does struggle without Gordon, who was essentially a full-time carer on top of being a loving husband. She still misses him terribly.

"“The hospital’s complete lack of co-ordination or compassion has appalled me. I felt like I was left to sort everything out myself, and that the doctors just brushed over the mess they’d made – acting like we should just get over it and move on."

In February 2013, Gordon was admitted to Northampton General Hospital to undergo surgery on the main artery in his pelvis.

As part of the procedure, doctors inserted a small mesh tube called a stent into Gordon's leg, which was meant to keep his arteries open after the operation.

However, a failure by the two doctors conducting the surgery to effectively communicate with one another meant that the stent was placed too high and blocked the blood supply to Gordon’s kidneys.

The surgery was pronounced a success. But, over the next 24 hours, Gordon's condition quickly deteriorated as his kidneys began to shut down from the loss of blood supply.

Staff eventually realised something was wrong when they saw Gordon had not urinated since the surgery - something his family had raised with the staff nurse on the evening after the operation.

An urgent scan showed the mistake and he was rushed to surgery, but it was already too late to save his kidneys, which had been irreparably damaged.

Gordon would be subjected to three more operations in the following week. Doctors removed most of his bowel after it was discovered this had also been damaged by blood loss. An opening was created in his abdomen to remove waste - but this was later reversed amd Gordon was given a colostomy.

The damage to his internal organs was so severe that Gordon was told he would never be able to eat and digest food normally again. This meant all his meals would have to be fed through an intravenous tube permanently. He would also need to be on haemodialysis – a procedure that replaces the function of the kidneys by cleaning and filtering the blood - three times a week for the rest of his life.

Overall, Gordon went through five surgeries over a two week period while doctors tried to repair their initial mistake.

Gordon was discharged from hospital 16 weeks after the initial surgery on June 6, 2013, the day before his 70th birthday, and returned home to his wife Florence. As Florence struggles with severe arthritis, Gordon had previously taken over the running of the household. But, due to his own condition, he was no longer able to care for Florence in the same way.

Florence Withers, Gordon’s wife, said: “We expected that after Gordon’s operation, he would return to his old self and would be able to carry on providing care for me. Unfortunately, after all the problems with his surgery, he never could return to caring for me the way he had done before.”

Over the next year, Gordon’s condition failed to improve and he was rushed in and out of hospital several times. In February 2014, he was taken into hospital to have his colostomy reversed. However during surgery, doctors realised that this could not be done and his stoma was left in place.

But the stress of undergoing yet more surgery made Gordon even weaker, and on June 17, 2014, he passed away.

Gordon's family brought a claim against Northampton General Hospital, who made admissions in October 2015.

The letter of response from the hospital admitted that the damage to Gordon’s kidneys during the original operation fell below acceptable standards of care, and the eventual kidney failure that led to Gordon’s death was a result of the misplaced stent. If this had been spotted during the crucial 24 hour window after surgery, at least some of the damage could possibly have been repaired.

Mrs Withers received compensation and an apology from Northampton General Hospital on June 14 this year.

A spokeswoman for Northampton General Hospital said "We extend our sincere apologies to Mrs Withers and her family for the errors made while Mr Withers was our patient.

"As a result of the lessons learned during the investigation into Mr Wither's care, we introduced actions to mitigate the risks of such errors happening again."

Michael Carson, a lawyer at Fletchers Solicitors, who dealt with the case said: “The hospital’s treatment of Gordon falls far below acceptable standards of care, and their negligence caused the last few months of his life to be spent in hospital, hooked up to machines – rather than with his wife. Of course, it’s not just Gordon who has been affected. His wife Florence has lost not just a devoted husband, but also her dedicated carer.

“We’re so glad that we’ve managed to help get justice for Gordon’s family. We hope that with the support of her wonderful friends and family, Florence can begin to heal and come to terms with what has happened.”