A MOTHER who was left ‘traumatised’ when she woke up on an operating table has won compensation from the hospital.
Alexandra Bythell, 36, came round minutes before surgery to remove her appendix at Royal Blackburn Hospital because she was not given enough anaesthetic, her solicitors said.
The psychiatric nurse, from Burnley, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after she woke up with tubes down her throat and tape across her eyes, they said.
Mrs Bythell said she was unable to move because the drugs she had been administered by staff had left her temporarily paralysed, but she could still hear people speaking about her size and weight.
She claims she then felt someone poking and prodding at her abdomen before there was a shout for more morphine and she fell back asleep.
Mrs Bythell, who suffers from flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks and anxiety, said: “The whole incident was terrifying.
“The body isn’t prepared to be awake in those situations. I had tubes in my mouth and my eyes were taped up – I was hysterical with panic but completely unable to do anything about it.
“I thought I was in surgery already and I felt like I was going to die.
“Afterwards I tried to explain to the staff what happened but I was constantly given the wrong information – first it was hallucinations, then it was a faulty machine.”
Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, which represented Mrs Bythell, said that after the operation, in September 2010, hospital staff initially thought that she had suffered a hallucination brought on by the drugs.
The lawyers claim staff then blamed a faulty machine, before a critical incident report by the hospital concluded that it was actually caused by human error.
Sarah Sharples, a medical lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said staff had not noticed that a vaporiser, which is supposed to deliver a given concentration of anaesthetic, was empty.
Mrs Bythell, who lives with her husband Robert, 38, and their four-year-old daughter, has won an undisclosed sum from East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust in an out-of-court settlement.
She has also received an apology from the trust.
Dr Ian Stanley, the trust’s interim executive medical director, said: “We are very sorry for the distress experienced by Ms Bythell.
“We are pleased that a settlement has now been agreed and procedures have been put in place to reduce the chance of this happening again.”
Mrs Bythell, who is currently eight months pregnant, returned to work in January 2011 but has suffered a number of relapses due to daily battles with anxiety and panic attacks.
She said: “It was incredibly distressing to find out that this was all caused by somebody not checking the machine actually had gas in it.
“When it first happened I was absolutely traumatised. I just hope improvements are made to the anaesthetic process so they don’t let this happen to anyone else – I would hate for people to suffer what I have.”
Ms Sharples said: “What happened to Alexandra is totally unacceptable.
“This was supposed to be a routine surgical procedure and she should have woken up after surgery safe in the knowledge that everything had gone well and she would make a full recovery.
“Instead she woke up paralysed, thinking that she was actually in theatre and thinking that she was about to die.
“She was left distraught over what had happened and why she had effectively woken up. The experience has had a massive affect on Alexandra psychologically.
“She put her trust in NHS staff but sadly on this occasion she was let down. It is crucial that the NHS Trust learns from this mistake and ensures that it cannot happen again.
“This was not a faulty machine. This was a simple avoidable human error and it is crucial that systems are introduced to stop this happening again.”
Mrs Bythell said the payout would cover her lost earnings and the therapy she has needed to help her manage her ongoing psychological problems.