I drained patient's wrong lung, doctor tells inquest

By Gareth Dennison | 08/10/2010

I drained patient's wrong lung, doctor tells inquest

A RETIRED miner died after a doctor tried to drain fluid from the wrong lung because he forgot to flip the x-ray over, an inquest heard.

Eric Oliver (85) was in “jovial” mood before the botched routine procedure at Rotherham General Hospital.

Mr Oliver—a dad of 11 with more than 100 grandchildren and great grandchildren—joked with nurses about how he had “repopulated half of Rotherham.”

He needed fluid draining from his right lung, but junior doctor Jonathan Hurst attempted to syringe the left—withdrawing only air.

The procedure—known as a pleural tap—involves inserting a needle in the patient’s back and withdrawing fluid with a syringe. The x-ray is taken from the front.

Dr Hurst found a “dullness” when tapping Mr Oliver’s left side, he told the inquest yesterday, and only realised his error after aborting his attempt to find fluid.

Mr Oliver’s daughter-in-law Judy was horrified to find him looking lifeless in bed a few minutes later.

She told Tuesday’s hearing: “Eric was just laid back in bed, with his eyes wide open, jaw down to his chin and big, dark eyes.

“I was patting his face, trying to get him to look into my eyes. But I couldn’t hear him breathing, there was nothing at all.”

Mr Oliver’s daughter, Vicky Oliver-Ripley, arrived and Judy flung her arms around her saying “He’s dead, he’s dead,” the inquest was told.

Vicky said: “I just didn’t expect him going into hospital and coming out dead in a box after just a simple procedure.”

Mr Oliver, of Valley Road in Herringthorpe, became a steelworker at Steel, Peech and Tozer after 27 years at Aldwarke Main Colliery.

He suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and was transferred to hospital from Breathing Space earlier on May 23 last year.

On-call doctor Rohit Bazaz left Dr Hurst to drain the fluid, hoping that Mr Oliver could return to the respiratory centre later that day.

Dr Hurst had seen the procedure a handful of times and done it under supervision. After discussing the x-ray, he told Dr Bazaz that he felt confident going it alone.

Student nurse Liam Godsil claimed Dr Hurst twice tried to withdraw fluid, adjusting the needle’s angle and depth before an assistant asked if he required a longer one.

He added: “Eric’s breathing was very laboured within a minute of the needle being withdrawn. He was struggling and looked a bit panicked.”

Dr Hurst admitted: “What I hadn’t done is flip the x-ray round, hence why I then went to the left side.

“I was very concerned. I didn’t expect to get air instead of fluid and I knew that we needed to act quickly.”

An urgent second x-ray was ordered as Mr Oliver deteriorated rapidly but he died minutes later.

After the hearing, a relative said: “Eric was very outgoing and always in good spirits.

“Even four heart attacks couldn’t stop him.

“All the kids and grandkids looked up to him.”

The inquest continues.

ONE of Eric Oliver's granddaughters had to leave the inquest yesterday to attend her baby daughter's funeral at Rotherham Crematorium. In  this week's Advertiser she talks about her double tragedy.


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