A mother-of-two who needed both of her legs, her right arm, and the fingers on her left hand amputated after contracting sepsis in hospital is taking legal action after doctors failed to diagnose her with the killer infection.
Bosses at the Luton and Dunstable University Hospital have apologised for the mistake, which they accept could have been completely avoided.
“Now my life is not a life, it is vegetation—a fight for life,” said Magdalena Malec, 31. “I was waiting for six months for the amputation of my limbs, with stinking and decaying legs and arms.”
“Nothing will restore what I had.”
Malec, who is mother to Paulina, 9, and Severin, 7, had discovered she was pregnant with her third child in December 2014. But just weeks later she and her partner, Robert, were devastated to find out that she had suffered a miscarriage.
She was later told she had an ectopic pregnancy, in which a fertilised egg implants itself outside of the womb. It requires urgent surgery to remove the affected fallopian tube and unviable foetus.
Malec then developed extensive limb ischaemia, which became gangrenous and caused her body tissue to die. She later learned it was caused by a loss of blood supply due to medical staff not recognising the classical warning signs for sepsis and failing to follow their own sepsis protocol.
The mother returned to the hospital three times a week for dialysis while waiting for surgery, during which her relationship broke down.
“I have been left on my own, starting with re-learning how to walk, comb my hair, eat, and brush my teeth,” she said. “I am learning how to live with pain. Going out and coping with the way people look at me is very difficult, and so is self-acceptance.”
“I will never paint my nails again, I will never make a ponytail for my daughter.”
Sepsis is blood poisoning caused by the body’s reaction due to an infection and requires urgent treatment. Common symptoms include persistently high temperatures, rash and itchiness in the legs, blue and mottled limbs, and inability to urinate.
Every year, 250,000 people contract sepsis and 44,000 of them end in deaths, with another 60,000 suffering from permanent life-changing effects.
“The catastrophic chain of events which led to Magdalena’s near death and horrendous injuries were completely avoidable if the hospital Trust had followed its own sepsis protocol,” Malec’s lawyer, David Thomas, said.
“There were a number of missed opportunities or ‘red flags’ which were not acted upon until it was too late,” he added. “If diagnosed early enough, sepsis is easily treated with anti-biotics but despite recent awareness campaigns, mistakes such as this are still happening. It’s tragic.”
A spokesman for the hospital added, “There were missed opportunities to recognise the progressive clinical deterioration of Mrs Malec and act accordingly, including the timely administration of antibiotics.
“We convey our sincere apologies to Mrs Malec and we recognise the care provided fell below the standards we strive for.”