Mum’s 14 years of chronic pain caused by “lost” epidural needle in her spine

A US mum’s terrible experience following an epidural is a reminder to keep looking for answers if you’re suffering from chronic and unexplained pain.

Chronic pain epidemic

One in five Australians are thought to be living with chronic pain, with it’s diagnosis, management and treatment often a bumpy, unsatisfactory and ultimately painful ride.

Very often those suffering from pain don’t get the understanding or treatment they need. This means it’s not uncommon for people to simply put up with debilitating pain, or turn to addictive medications in the quest for some temporary relief.

Woke up with a sore leg

Amy Bright had her (very healthy, now teenage) son Jacob, back in September 2003 via an epidural and c-section delivery at Florida’s Naval Hospital Jacksonville. Following the birth, Amy instantly had a very sore leg and was subsequently plagued with excruciating pain in her left leg and back. This pain endured for 14 years – and made her life a living hell.

“It feels like fire, like a poker next to my tailbone,” Amy told First Coast News. “On occasion, it shoots down the left side of my leg on my calf … and then down and into my foot.”

Amy Bright back scan

One third of a needle stuck in her spine

Amy was diagnosed with a vague back condition for well over a decade, but after undergoing a scan in November last year, doctors found out what the real problem was. 

Those long years of chronic pain were not simply due to a dodgy back. Instead there is a “3-centimeter needle sticking out of her spine, three-fourths of the way through a bone, causing permanent nerve damage,” the Army Times reports. 

It’s now too dangerous to remove the needle, due to its precarious location in her spinal canal. Amy is destined to be on painkillers for the rest of her life.

Malpractice suit

Amy’s suing the hospital for malpractice, reasoning that attending staff must have known the needle was not in tact when they removed it.

“This represents a cowardly, unethical cover-up by personnel at Naval Hospital Jacksonville,” Amy’s attorney, Sean Cronin told a media conference.

“The medical provider jammed the needle … across the spinal canal and into her spine,” Mr Cronin explained, noting the attending team “would have known the needle had broken because it’s marked on the end, and anesthesia providers look at the tip when they pull out the needle to make sure it’s there. The needles are 9 centimeters long, and a third of it broke off.”

“They’re supposed to tell her, record it in the medical records, and have [the needle] surgically removed. They chose to look the other way and left her in this condition.”

“Who does that?”

Amy is understandably devastated by this chain of events and feels betrayed by those who were meant to be caring for her.

“I have metal in my back now for the rest of my life. We’re all going to age. It’s going to get worse from here,” Amy told the News4Jax media outlet.  “It’s just devastating. It’s absolutely wrong. Who doesn’t tell you? Who does that?”

Years of misdiagnosis

It’s clear that not only was Amy kept in the dark about something going very, very wrong during her birth, her pain was then discounted by doctors she saw for YEARS on end.

Thankfully she got the correct diagnosis in the end, but it’s obvious that none of the medical professionals she consulted over the years took the time to investigate the cause of her pain properly.

This is a very typical scenario for women with chronic pain, with it often taking many years of feeling unwell before they get an accurate diagnosis and begin appropriate treatment. It’s just not good enough.

Don’t suffer in silence

Amy’s terrible experience is a reminder to trust your instincts and your body, and to keep pushing for answers if you’re living with symptoms that are affecting your life (or simply seem “not quite right”).

If your healthcare provider is ignoring or discounting your pain, it’s time to find a new doctor. You could also get in touch with Pain Australia for resources and advice on diagnosing and treating chronic pain.

We hope Amy gets a very large payout and that her medical team can carefully manage her pain so she can live the kind of life she wants to.

Image via Cronin & Maxwell Law Firm

 

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