A cancer patient who went into hospital for routine surgery to remove his prostate has told how a flesh-eating superbug left him fighting for his life.
Andrew Lane, 61, contracted the potentially fatal infection, known as necrotising fasciitis, following the operation at Southend Hospital.
He survived, but had to have so much diseased tissue removed that it left him with a protruding stomach, where the outer tissue had been ‘eaten’ away. It also damaged his genitals so badly that he lost most of his penis and is no longer able to have sex.
He was forced to use a catheter and colostomy bag for two years and has had to have a special device fitted to help him urinate.
Mr Lane, from Thurrock, Essex, spent eight weeks in hospital following the incident in March 2013 and said he had only recently started to come to terms with his injuries.
He is now taking legal action against Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust over claims that his bowel was punctured during the original operation, but not detected for days afterwards, which led to the infection.
He said: “It has just been a horrendous experience. I thought I was going to die. That night I was taken to theatre three times while the surgeons took more and more tissue away.
“I lost from my belly button to just above the groin and I’ve not got much left of a penis.
“I was super fit before all this. I had a good body, but now I look like I’m nine months pregnant. I can’t ever bear to look at myself naked.
“The most difficult bit is not being able to have sex with my wife anymore. We’re a normal couple who enjoyed it as part of a healthy relationship and I do miss that.”
Mr Lane, who married his long-term partner Sue after his discharge from hospital, said he felt unable to return to his job as an architectural draftsman and now works as a carer.
While the damage is irreversible, he hopes that sharing his story will help raise awareness and stop it happening to anyone else.
He added: “The effect psychologically, as well as physically, has been awful. I was an architect before doing a little bit of care work, but after all this I couldn’t face it so I gave up drawing completely.
“It’s hard to relax because you get time to think so I like to keep busy, it’s my way of coping.
“I find that when I’m not doing so much I keep thinking about what happened and what could have been done differently.
“I’d never even heard of the bug before and had no idea of the damage it could do, but if speaking out can raise awareness and stop one more person having to go through what I’ve been through then it will have been worth it.”
Nick Greaves, a clinical negligence specialist at law firm Slater and Gordon, who is representing Mr Lane in a civil action, said: “Mr Lane believed he was going into hospital for a routine operation and would be home within days. Instead, he has been left with permanent and life-changing injuries that have turned his world upside down.
“Although nothing can change that, he wants to know what happened and ensure it is fully investigated and everything possible done to prevent anyone else having to go through the same ordeal.”