A teenager came to within an inch of his life after undergoing a seemingly routine operation and then travelling to Leeds where doctors 'botched' his care and left him with a brain injury.
Corey Wilkinson, who was taking a course to be a personal trainer, had his tonsils removed at Diana Princess of Wales Hospital on November 23 in 2021. He travelled to Leeds after the procedure the same evening.
But, while in Leeds, he was rushed to Leeds General Infirmary because of bleeding. And things took a turn for the worst when Corey's "airways became blocked for two lengthy periods as doctors treated him, causing him to be starved of oxygen". He later suffered a cardiac arrest.
At the Leeds hospital, doctors attempted to insert a breathing tube in his neck as the amount of blood was causing him difficulty breathing. The struggle persisted for some time and Corey was "starved of oxygen for between 10 to 15 minutes".
Corey was put on a ventilator and taken to ICU. The next day Corey was removed from the ventilator, which caused him to have breathing problems once more, and left him "starved of oxygen" for four minutes. Although doctors put the tube back in place, Corey, 19, suffered a cardiac arrest and a hypoxic and ischaemic brain injury.
Corey, from Grimsby, remained in ICU for two weeks, fighting for his life, but miraculously pulled through. He was discharged in January 2022 but with severe damage, unable to walk, talk, or swallow.
Corey's mother Nicola, says the experience was heartbreaking as her family expected it to be flawless. Nicola said: "We’d been at hospital with him and were told there had been substantial bleeding, but we were not in any kind of panic as my sister had her tonsils removed some years ago and she also suffered bleeding and needed surgery to stop it. It was all straightforward for her though.
“We left him as we were told he’d need to stay in overnight, but then just as we arrived home in the early hours of the morning we got a call telling us we needed to come back and that it was serious. We were told that it was so bad he might not survive, and if he did he may never be the same boy again because he would likely have suffered brain damage. It was heartbreaking."
Nicola said Corey, who still struggles with pains, mobility restrictions and from tiredness and confusion, lost all his independence and needed support just to survive. She said: “When he did eventually come home from hospital we had a lot of tears and frustrations as he wanted to be the person he was before, and he was upset at losing his independence and needing our support. It has been a long road back to where he is now.
“He was determined to do the best he could though, and as soon as he could he was using our walking machine at home and the weights to get himself physically better. For a while he needed to use the wheelchair, then a walking frame, but as soon as he was able to he was back to the gym and he has gone every day without fail.
“His confidence was shattered by what happened. Initially he did speak slowly and was slurred, but again, over time, that has improved, although I know he still feels self-conscious about it, as he does the scar on his neck from the emergency surgery.
"For a long time he’d want me to go with him to appointments to speak for him. It has been such a difficult thing for him to deal with but we are so proud of him.”
Corey's recovery remains ongoing, and his lawyers Hudgell Solicitors, who led a personal injury compensation claim on Corey’s behalf, and secured payment of £25,000 from Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, say he hopes to play semi-professional football and take part in boxing once he recovers. Corey's lawyers said Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust admitted ‘a number of breaches of duty’ during his treatment.
Solicitor Matthew Gascoyne, of Hudgell Solicitors, said: “We are very grateful to Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust for making early admissions of breach of duty in this case and for agreeing to this interim payment to pay for rehabilitation support which will hugely help Corey on his continuing recovery.
“We had outlined our concerns over the treatment Corey received, in particular decisions to carry out the initial surgery with only one anaesthetist present, a failure to plan to sufficiently clear his airways before surgery, and then to end sedation and remove his breathing tube the following morning before the day-shift medical staff arrived, and before an Intensive Care Consultant would have been expected on the unit.
“Corey is an inspirational young man who was making a positive life for himself before this event, and has been determined to pick his life back up since and make the best possible recovery.
“His legal claim will continue as we will seek to ensure he continues to have access to a team of specialists who can help him return to his training and then employment, and enjoy the best quality of life and independence, whilst of course seeking significant damages for the impact of what happened to him.”
Corey's family are not just grateful for the money, but also for a change in hospital practice, which they say will help prevent what happened to Corey from happening to anybody else. Nichola, who says she still can’t believe how close she came to losing her son after a routine procedure, carried out on thousands of children and teenagers each year, said: "We’re so proud of Corey and how far he has come, and we are lucky to still have him with us given what happened.
“We came so close to losing him that night, after such a routine procedure, so I’ve wanted people to know the dangers, and when we found out what had happened at the hospital, we wanted lessons to be learned. Corey has certainly been left untrusting of doctors and hospitals, and whilst of course it has been so upsetting for this to have happened to my son, I also saw the absolutely brilliant aftercare they provided to Corey in the weeks he was in intensive care.
“I’m just pleased there have been changes made as a result of what happened to Corey, and hopefully these lessons will be passed on and shared to wider hospital trusts now given bleeding after tonsil removal can happen often. We wanted to take legal action as we wanted Corey to have the best possible support for the future, and I wanted lessons to be learned and changes made. That is happening, so it does feel like a positive outcome from all that has happened."
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust say they are happy that Corey is recovering. Dr John Adams, Medical Director (Governance and Risk) at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We are pleased to hear that Corey is making good progress and that he has been able to access vital rehabilitation services with the interim payment made by the Trust. We are working with Corey's solicitors to bring the claim to a conclusion as soon as possible.”