“REST in peace Elisha- your death will not be in vain”. Those were the words of a grieving mother whose daughter died after a routine operation at Basingstoke hospital.
This morning, an inquest heard from coroner Keith Wiseman that the death of Elisha Langley was one of the saddest cases he had heard in around 20 years. He said: “Rarely has a case had quite such an emotive context as the present one - this is, of course, not only because of Elisha’s young age at the time of her death but because of the enormous difficulties she had to live with on a day-to-day basis.”
As previously reported in The Gazette, Elisha, who had congenital dysmorphic syndrome and scoliosis, died at the age of 20 on December 23, 2012, after suffering from an abscess in her brain. The abscess was “a very rare complication of a very common operation”, the inquest was told.
Elisha had been admitted to Basingstoke hospital on November 9, 2012, for an operation to remove a sebaceous cyst.
She was readmitted to the hospital twice after the operation, but a CT scan, which revealed a brain abscess, was not carried out until December 21 - the day on which she collapsed and never recovered.
Speaking after the inquest, Elisha’s mother Julie, of Worting Road, Basingstoke, said she felt her daughter died because the family’s concerns had been ignored by hospital staff.
She said: “We watched out daughter day after day, minute after minute, hour after hour, suffer beyond words, slowly dying a painful death, while begging for her to get the treatment that would have saved her life, but we were ignored until it was too late.
“Elisha’s death could so easily have been saved if only they listened to us, her family.”
Elisha’s father, Alun Langley, said that his daughter could not communicate to people outside her family.
He said: “You can have all the letters after your name in the world, but none of that matters if you don’t listen to the family - the people who know the patient best.”
The family are planning on taking legal action against Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and said they did not think the narrative verdict given by the Southampton coroner: “went far enough.”
In his verdict, Mr Wiseman said: “Elisha Langley had suffered since birth from congenital dysmorphic syndrome and scoliosis. She had learning difficulties and was unable to speak.
“She was wholly dependent on her parents and close relatives who could understand her wishes and state of health in particular very significantly better than anyone outside the family unit.
“When an operation for removal of a sebaceous cyst on her head was under consideration, it was not felt necessary for a preliminary scan to take place as would certainly have been indicated if it had been clear that the cyst may have been present since birth, and a neurological reference was not considered to be necessary either.
“Each of these courses of action would have been likely to identify that Elisha had a skull defect likely to cause complications during and beyond the operative process itself.
“In the post-operative period, there was a failure to appreciate, until very late on, that infection in the wound area was not superficial but in fact leading to penetration of the skull and the creation of a significant abscess in the brain from which Elisha was unable to recover.” Mary Edwards, chief executive of HHFT, said: “We would like to express our sincere condolences to Elisha Langley's family and friends.
“HHFT co-operated fully with the coroner to support the inquest into Elisha's death. We also identified changes from the investigation into her care and have implemented changes following this.”
These changes include considering imaging all soft tissue lumps of more than 5cm, raising awareness of the possibility of complications following such operations through surgical meetings and raising awareness of the need to consider early imaging in patients with learning difficulties.