Student sues over paralysis after back operation

A 19-year-old student was left paralysed for over a year after a back operation, and yesterday launched a High Court action for damages.

Student sues over paralysis after back operation

The High Court heard Richard O’Callaghan, now aged 27, from Deanewood Avenue, Togher, Co Cork, became paralysed and was paraplegic 14 days after surgery to treat a curvature of the spine at the Blackrock Clinic in Dublin.

The business student was told he would never walk again, had to learn to use a wheelchair, and his parents had to adapt their home.

Mr O’Callaghan has sued consultant orthopaedic surgeon Frank Dowling, practising at Blackrock Clinic, for alleged negligence and breach of duty as a result of the paralysis two weeks after the surgery in 2005.

Mr O’Callaghan has claimed Mr Dowling failed to monitor, either properly or at all, the spinal cord either prior or during the course of the surgery in 2005, and failed to have any or adequate spinal monitoring equipment available for the two stages of operations on Sept 7 and 14, 2005.

It is claimed Mr Dowling failed to carry out any or any adequate investigations, including an MRI scan in the immediate post-operative period after the Sept 14 surgery, and failed to order strict bed rest when Mr O’Callaghan’s neurological condition deteriorated in the second week following the operations.

Mr Dowling denies the claims and said there was no failure to adequately monitor the spinal cord and the wake-up test is the definitive test of spinal cord integrity.

Mr Dowling claims the injury to Mr O’Callaghan resulted from reduced blood supply to the spinal cord as a result of straightening of the spine and is a recognised complication of this surgery.

Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill was told that Mr O’Callaghan has made a remarkable recovery against the odds and was delighted to regain the ability to walk, but he has been left with significant deficits.

Oonagh McCrann said Mr O’Callaghan has had the condition causing curvature of the spine since he was born. When he was a teenager he came under the care of Mr Dowling, and it was decided to operate when he was 19.

The case continues.

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