After her 4th degree tear was poorly repaired, Tamsin was left with a defect in her anal sphincter and a recto-vaginal fistula. Despite having a temporary colostomy and secondary repair, she continues to leak faeces on a constant basis.
Tamsin, a 26 year old mental health support worker, went into labour with her first child on 15th August 2010. She returned repeatedly to hospital over the next three days complaining of very painful contractions. She was told to return home and take paracetamol.
A doctor finally decided to perform a scan, despite a midwife saying there was “no point” in doing so. The scan showed that the baby was lying back to back, halting the progression of labour and making it very painful for Tamsin.
By now the baby was distressed and Tamsin was taken to theatre. The baby was rotated with the use of forceps and delivered during a contraction. However, Tamsin was not given an episiotomy, which is unusual for an assisted delivery.
The doctor immediately diagnosed a 4th degree tear. He carried out a repair which Tamsin could feel because the epidural had worn off. Her requests for more pain relief were largely ignored. She was not examined before or after the procedure, nor was she given IV antibiotics.
Two days after the birth of her son, Tamsin passed a bowel motion which she noticed came out of her vagina. This continued for the next nine days, creating a terrible smell. She had to bathe constantly to prevent an infection.
By the ninth day she had not improved so returned to the same hospital and saw the same midwife who had overseen her labour. Swabs were taken but Tamsin was told there was nothing wrong and to return home.
For the next six weeks Tamsin lived with her symptoms. The hospital had not contacted her, so she assumed the swab results were normal. But at her six-week check-up she saw a different consultant who instantly recognised that she had a recto-vaginal fistula.
The fistula was 1.5cm long and could be seen without the need of an internal examination. The recent swab results were also recorded in Tamsin’s notes, indicating ‘profuse faecal cultures’. The hospital had failed to notify Tamsin or act on the results.
The consultant told Tamsin that she needed a procedure to fit a temporary colostomy bag, which would allow her bowel to rest for four months. She would then need an operation to repair the fistula and another to reverse the colostomy. All would be carried out under general anaesthetic.
These procedures were subsequently completed. During the first operation the consultant was able to investigate the injury more thoroughly. He noted that there was also a defect in the anal sphincter, revealing that the 4th degree tear had been poorly repaired. He later described the injury to Tamsin as ‘more severe that he had first thought’.
Sadly, the surgical treatment has led to little improvement in Tamsin’s condition. Faeces leaks permanently from her anus and vagina, making the area sore and smelly. She gets regular infections. She wears pads and cannot leave the house without a change of clothes.
Tamsin must wash regularly as she feels unclean and is fearful of infections. She has become obsessive about washing, sometimes taking 10 showers a day. She has said she feels like she is ‘trapped in the bathroom’ and finds it difficult to leave the house.
This has made her work life extremely hard. She has been unable to carry out her normal duties and cannot concentrate properly, as she can feel faeces coming out of her and can smell it. Even the colostomy bag, when fitted, would leak and gurgle.
As a result of these injuries, Tamsin has become depressed and suicidal. She feels she missed out on the first two years of her son’s life, and believes she has failed as a mother and a woman. She cannot have any more children, which is upsetting for her and her husband.
When she contact us for advice, we told Tamsin that she had been repeatedly subject to substandard medical care. For instance, the birth was badly managed, an episiotomy was not performed, IV antibiotics were not administered, an examination was not done before/after the repair, the repair was of a poor standard and the fistula was not diagnosed.
We helped Tamsin make a claim for the awful injuries she continues to endure. She was awarded £125,000 compensation.