Samantha, 40

Samantha was left with significant mobility problems, bowel and bladder incontinence and permanent pain after a doctor at a local hospital failed to realise she was experiencing the red flag signs of cauda equina syndrome. The doctor ignored the fact that Samantha had suffered urinary incontinence when she attended the emergency department with severe back pain and did not carry out a thorough investigation. After Samantha’s case was taken on by Melissa Gardner, a partner specialising in cauda equina claims at JMW, the hospital trust made some admissions of negligence and agreed to pay £2.1 million in compensation.

Start of ordeal

Samantha had suffered sciatic back pain some years before her misdiagnosis but nothing as severe as the morning she awoke in agony at the start of her ordeal. After getting out of bed with some difficulty she attempted to walk to her bathroom. Samantha felt a tearing sensation in her back, with pain down both legs. She collapsed on the floor and found that she had wet herself.

Samantha’s husband called an ambulance and when the paramedics arrived and took her to the local hospital, arriving around 12 noon. Whilst in the emergency department Samantha found that she was losing the feeling in her saddle area.

After approximately 30 minutes she was seen by a doctor. The doctor asked general questions about Samantha’s pain, bowel and bladder function, mobility and sensations. Unfortunately there were a number of errors in the doctor’s record of this conversation and despite Samantha reporting the episode of incontinence she had experienced the doctor failed to take this into consideration. Samantha had also explained the numbness in her saddle area but again this was ignored.

The doctor did not carry out a full neurological examination or inform Samantha of the red flag signs of cauda equina syndrome. She was discharged home with pain relief and instructions to see her own GP on Monday.


Samantha deteriorated significantly over the weekend. She found she could not pass urine and had a burning sensation in her legs. She was in severe pain and the numbness in her saddle area was worsening. However, due to the failures of the hospital doctor, Samantha did not seek further help until Monday when her GP practice opened.

Samantha called the GP first thing on Monday morning but she was unable to speak to a doctor until that afternoon. When she reported her symptoms she was urged to go straight to the hospital emergency department. At the hospital she was diagnosed with suspected cauda equina syndrome and was transferred to a specialist spinal hospital. Samantha underwent an MRI scan in the early hours of the next morning and surgery to treat the pressure on her cauda equina nerves later that day. However by now it was too late to prevent permanent nerve damage from occurring and Samantha had a poor outcome.

Successful medical negligence claim

The permanent damage that was caused to Samantha’s cauda equina nerves has affected every aspect of her life. She has to manage her bladder and bowel with self-catheterisation and a bowel irrigation system. She experiences severe leg and back pain and altered sensation in her lower limbs. Her mobility is significantly restricted. She is often afraid to leave the house in case she has an accident. She is now unable to work and her personal relationships have been affected. Samantha is often tearful and depressed.

Nothing could ever fully make up for this but after a case was brought against the hospital responsible for the doctor by JMW’s Melissa Gardner, some admissions if wrong-doing were obtained. This enabled Melissa to enter negotiations regarding a suitable compensation settlement for Samantha and £2.1 million was secured to enable her to cope with the financial consequences of her disabilities. 


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