'I feel like the elephant man': Cork man sues hospital after alleged disfigurement after surgery

'I feel like the elephant man': Cork man sues hospital after alleged disfigurement after surgery
Liam Coughlan, from Midleton, Co. Cork, pictured leaving the Four Courts after his High Court action for damages. Pic: Collins Courts

A 63- year old man who claims he suffered alleged disfigurement when he had mouth surgery as part of a cancer treatment at a Cork hospital has sued in the High Court.

Liam Coughlan, his counsel Oonah McCrann SC told the court always had great pride in his appearance but now feels he looks like "elephant man".

Counsel said sometimes people do not recognise Mr Coughlan,a carpenter and maintenance officer from Midleton, Co Cork and she said his life is now very different and he fears for the future.

"He can't reach up to change a light bulb, he can't lift heavy saucepans in the kitchen. He worked all his life and is devastated he can't get back to work," Counsel added.

Before the surgery in 2015, Mr Coughlan she said was gregarious and very active .

Ms McCrann instucted by Cantillon Solicitors said it is their case that an alleged unnecessary and inappropriate procedure was carried out and an alleged inappropriate repair was also carried out."

Liam Coughlan (63 ) Lower Aghada, Midleton,Co Cork has sued South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital, Cork and the HSE over the care he received when he needed mouth surgery as part of treatment for mouth cancer in 2015.

Mr Coughlan, who had an ulcer at the base of his mouth was diagnosed with mouth cancer in January 2015. He was advised he would have to have a sliver of the inner aspect of his lower jaw removed. But is is claimed that far more extensive surgery than he was allegedly informed about or allegedly consented to was undertaken and that he allegedly was not informed a plate and screws were to be inserted.

In February 2015, Mr Coughlan underwent a tracheostomy, a bilateral neck dissection and removal of a part of the jaw bone. He was discharged from the hospital after several weeks.

it is claimed that post operatively his neck incision wound did not heal well and he also had to have radiotherapy.

He continued to suffer ongoing problems and it is claimed he was informed in August 2015 a plate and screws had been inserted as part of his original surgery. He had to have a further repair procedure in the jaw area in November 2015 and he was discharged from hospital in mid December 2015.

Mr Coughlan sought a second opinion and was admitted to a Dublin hospital in September 2 016 for further operative intervention.

It is claimed there was an alleged failure to treat Mr Coughlan properly and that he was allegedly caused to develop an infection. It is further claimed Mr Coughlan had to undergo numerous repair surgeries.

It is claimed Mr Coughlan has severe restriction of shoulder movement and head and neck movements and is unable to hold his head in its natural position. .

The claims are denied and it is contended the surgery, repair and care were appropriate

In evidence Mr Coughlan said before the surgery he was the type of person who was outgoing and popular.

"I knew how to dress up properly. I liked my style," he said .

He said after the surgery when he saw himself in the mirror for the first time, he said: "I thought I was deformed my head was stitched too close to my shoulders ."

He added: " It was like somebody got their measurements wrong."

The case before Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy continues next week.

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