A YOUNG Basingstoke woman who was admitted to hospital for a routine operation died just weeks later – and her mother has said she suffered “pain beyond words at, and in, the hands of those who were meant to care for her.”
An inquest this week heard how 20-year-old Elisha Langley, who had learning difficulties, died on December 23, 2012 after suffering from an abscess in her brain.
The coroner’s court was told that the brain abscess was “a very rare complication of a very common operation”.
Elisha had been admitted to Basingstoke hospital on November 19, 2012 for an operation to remove a sebaceous cyst from the side of her head, which had been present for many years.
The cyst itself was not harmful, the inquest heard, but it was growing larger, causing Elisha some discomfort, and medics feared it was at risk of infection if she kept scratching it.
Elisha returned home following the operation, but quickly took a turn for the worse.
Her mother Julie Langley, of Worting Road, Basingstoke, told the inquest how “what was meant to be a day operation turned out to be a life-changing event.”
Elisha, who was underweight and had a body mass index of just 14, was readmitted to Basingstoke hospital as an emergency patient on December 1.
Consultant surgeon Fenella Welsh, who had referred Elisha for the operation, carried out observations on her on December 4.
She told the inquest that Elisha, who was unable to communicate to people outside of her family, was suffering from a “nasty wound infection” and had been unable to tolerate the oral antibiotics.
After being given intravenous antibiotics and having the wound cleaned, Elisha was discharged on December 6, only to be readmitted to the hospital two days later.
Miss Welsh said of the second emergency admission: “My understanding is that she was unwell. She was vomiting and had a temperature, a cough and she had lost weight.”
Elisha was given an X-ray, and tests on her blood and urine were carried out. All indicators were normal, except for her white blood cell count which was raised – a possible indicator of an infection.
Miss Welsh said she and her colleagues had been “confused” by the results. Elisha remained in hospital and Miss Welsh told the inquest: “I thought she was improving. The blood tests were normalising. She did not have a temperature or high pulse rate.”
However, by December 15, Elisha’s family were seriously concerned by her condition and told nurses that she was behaving differently and kept covering one eye.
Miss Welsh said she was not aware of these concerns until December 19. By December 21, Elisha was in agony and was curled up in a ball in her hospital bed.
Medics suspected appendicitis or a bowel perforation and ordered a full body CT scan. The scan revealed that Elisha was suffering from an abscess on her brain – a discovery which Miss Welsh said “shocked” and “horrified” those who had been treating her.
Miss Welsh told the inquest: “It never occurred to me that she would die.”
Elisha was transferred to Southampton General Hospital where she was due to be cared for by specialist neurological staff. However, her condition worsened and she died.
The inquest heard that it is believed the abscess was probably caused by a secondary infection which built up under the skin following the operation.
Miss Welsh apologised to the family as she gave evidence at the inquest, and appeared close to tears.
At the start of the inquest on Monday, Elisha's mother, Julie, read out an emotional statement.
"Elisha, my daughter. I gave birth to her and cared and protected her from the moment she was born," Mrs Langley said.
"I protected her as a baby, a child and a young lady, but I failed to protect her in the last month of her life.
"She suffered pain beyond words at, and in, the hands of those who were meant to care for her.
"My mother crying and distraught at seeing Elisha suffering, begging for a CT scan. A grandmother watching her granddaughter suffering so much pain that Elisha bit into her arm leaving teeth marks because she couldn’t bear the pain, saying “help me”.
"Elisha’s dad questioning everything and unhappy with the answers, constantly being shunned away and ignored.
"Me, Elisha’s mother, beside myself at seeing the condition my daughter was left to silently suffer alone.
"We were all brushed aside, our many, many concerns constantly ignored and made to feel stupid and unimportant.
"Yet these reports have the nerve to say – if only she could have communicated with us things would have been different.
"Elisha may not have been able to speak but we were then, and still are, her voice.
"Time and time again, every concern we had was brushed aside with staggering arrogance. How you cared so little for my defenceless daughter, only you involved know and will have to live with.
"Your actions, or lack of them, have devastated so many lives – you have no idea of the impact you have caused to my world. What was meant to be a day operation turned out to be a life-changing event.
"Tia, Elisha’s eight-year-old sister having nightmares and counselling, asking why her elder sister whom she used to play with, bath with and laugh with, died in a place where people go to get better, where she went to get better.
"My life – well, I have no life, your actions took that from me.
"My daughter, who I had clothed and washed, fed and cleaned every single day for 20 years gone, because those who were meant to look after her and keep her safe didn’t.
"My quality of life is nil. I often sit and wonder if your sons and daughters would have been subjected to the neglect and pain my daughter suffered and endured.
"I then get angry for not being much more forceful when I had the chance to change the outcome of Elisha’s treatment, and not just a bystander who put her faith in the system and doctors who simply didn’t care.
"Elisha was a defenceless, beautiful soul – an angel who brought happiness to so many lives, now dead because I failed to protect her while she was in your care.
"You will go home to your sons and daughters. I will go home and sit on her bed and pray and hope she forgives me for not being strong enough to protect her and fight every wrong decision you made.
"Every concern we had, now validated in these reports, yet ignored time after time when we brought them up.
"You pushed our concerns aside, causing my Elisha to suffer pain not felt by anyone in this room.
"She paid for that pain with her life. She paid for your mistakes with her life. Her life, gone because we trusted in you.
"Today, and in the next few days, Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust will be giving you a high level of attention.
I only wish they and you had given this much care and attention to my poor Elisha.”
The reports that Mrs Langley referred to in her statement are believed to have been compiled by an independent expert, commissioned by the hospital trust.