Cork mother breaks down in court telling of 'unbearable, horrendous pain' after spinal surgery

"I really thought it would be a good thing and would change my life to have the surgery done," Amanda O’Connell told the court.
Cork mother breaks down in court telling of 'unbearable, horrendous pain' after spinal surgery

Amanda OConnell 'thought she had nothing to lose and everything to gain', the court heard. Picture: Collins Courts

A mother-of-two who was told that spinal surgery at a Cork hospital would make her into a new woman has claimed she ended up with horrendous pain and later had to have revision surgery.

Amanda O’Connell has sued the HSE and consultant neurosurgeon Christopher Lim in the High Court as a result of the spinal surgery at Cork University Hospital six years ago. All the claims are denied.

The 51-year-old woman broke down in tears in the witness box as she told how she had “a few spinal leaks” and “unbearable, horrendous pain” after the October 2016 surgery which had been designed to treat her ongoing back pain.

Ms O’Connell from Grange, Cork City, who had suffered from lower back pain since the birth of her second child said the neurosurgeon Mr Lim said he could do the surgery.

“He told me to look up a YouTube video,” she told Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds. "It gave a basic idea what the surgery was about. He said he did the surgery quite a lot and he was very positive about it.

She added: “He said there was a slight risk of infection, but he was not worried. 

I really thought it would be a good thing and would change my life to have the surgery done.” 

Ms O’Connell had attended the hospital emergency department because of back pain, and the operation was scheduled for the next day.

She said that she had excruciating pain after the surgery, but was reassured that it was normal. When she was due to be discharged home, it emerged she had a spinal leak.

Her counsel, Dr John White SC with Cian O’Mahony Bl, told the court the surgery had devastating consequences for Ms O’Connell.

He said it was supposed to relieve her severe back pain. He said she was told the surgery would make her into a new woman, but instead she had constant pain and needed revision surgery.

Cork University Hospital. File Picture
Cork University Hospital. File Picture

Counsel said Ms O’Connell was told she would only spend seven days in hospital, but ended up spending four months as a result of alleged infection and she “had pain at an entirely different level from before the surgery”.

He said it was “now at a devastating level”. 

Ms O’Connell he said was referred to Beaumont Hospital in 2017 for review and while her pain was mitigated at the moment, she has considerably more pain than before the first operation.

Counsel said it was their case that Ms O’Connell was never told the pain could get worse, and from talking to Mr Lim, “she thought she had nothing to lose and everything to gain”.

Counsels said it was their case that the surgeon had a clear duty to warn of the risks of surgery and the alternatives, which would have been a referral to a pain psychologist.

“But that didn’t enter the picture at all,” said counsel.

It would appear cheaper for her to undergo surgery than provide a pain psychologist."

Counsel said the consultant told her to look at a video of the procedure on YouTube. 

“It was not wrong of him as such, but it was not enough," said Dr White. "This was a major operation with the risk to life and limb.” 

He said it was their case that there was alleged negligence in the performance of the 2016 operation and an alleged failure to obtain an informed consent to the surgery, which her counsel said comes with a risk of severe complications.

It is further claimed there was an alleged failure to advise Ms O’Connell that specialist psychological pain management to assist her in coping with her pain and disability was an alternative form of treatment to be considered when deciding whether to undergo the surgery.

It was further claimed there was an alleged failure to refer Ms O’Connell for specialist psychological pain management at any time during her long history of chronic debilitating pain before the October 12 surgery.

All the claims are denied.

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