Mother left brain damaged and needing 24-hour care after doctors missed signs of deadly infection wins six-figure payout


  • Clare Day, 29 suffered a tight and uncomfortable chest in December 2009
  • Was sent home from hospital despite X-ray showing a shadow on her lungs
  • Began to experience headaches, vomiting, weight loss and fainting 
  • In hospital doctors said symptoms were ‘nothing to worry about’ 
  • In April 2010, a brain scan showed she had tuberculous meningitis
  • This is where fluid around brain and spinal cord is invaded with bacteria
  • Required immediate surgery but was left brain damaged
  • Now has problems with memory and information processing
  • Requires 24-hour care and her family care for her 6-year-old son
  • Lawyers acting on behalf of her family now secured a six-figure payout

A mother-of-one left brain damaged and needing 24-hour care has won a six-figure payout after doctors failed to spot the signs of a life-threatening infection.

Clare Day, 29, was taken to hospital in December 2009 after suffering a tight and uncomfortable chest, but was sent home despite an x-ray showing a shadow on her lungs.

In the following months, she began to experience known symptoms of meningitis including headaches, vomiting, dramatic weight loss and fainting.

Clare Day, 29, was left brain damaged and needing 24-hour care after doctors repeatedly told her the signs of deadly meningitis infection were ‘nothing to worry about’. Her family now care for her six-year-old son

Officials at Bristol Royal Infirmary (pictured) where Ms Day was taken have apologised to her family, and said it is 'regrettable that high standards of patient care were not met in this case'

Officials at Bristol Royal Infirmary (pictured) where Ms Day was taken have apologised to her family, and said it is ‘regrettable that high standards of patient care were not met in this case’

Ms Day, of Horfield, Bristol, was taken to Bristol Royal Infirmary on several occasions over five months, but was told her symptoms were “nothing to worry about”, her lawyers claim.

Finally, an ambulance took Ms Day to hospital where she underwent a scan.

This revealed she had tuberculous meningitis, a rare condition where tuberculosis bacteria invade the membranes and fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

She required immediate brain surgery to remove fluid from her brain, but was left brain damaged.

She now has problems with memory and processing information, so needs 24-hour care and help in caring for her six-year-old son.

Yesterday, lawyers acting on behalf of Ms Day’s family secured a six-figure payout at the High Court from University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, although the exact sum has not been revealed.

The hospital trust has apologised to the family and said it is ‘regrettable that high standards of care were not met in this case’.

Ms Day’s mother, Elaine Nikolovski, who helps to care for her daughter and grandson, said: ‘Clare’s life was changed forever after the meningitis and it is so frustrating that with different care things may have been different.

‘We are relieved that today marks the end of the legal proceedings and that the settlement has now been approved so that we can access the vital support to help assist with her future medical and care costs, and ensure she has the best possible quality of life.

Ms Day’s family won a six figure payout from the hospital trust, which they say will go towards future medical costs

‘I hope that lessons have been learnt by the trust to ensure other families are not put through what we have and that staff are adequately trained to spot the symptoms of meningitis.’

Ms Day underwent an operation to fit a shunt – a medical device to drain fluid from her brain – on April 11, 2010.

Lawyers argued the delay in diagnosis meant her body quickly started to shut down, with her oxygen levels falling dangerously low as doctors worked to save her life.

Julie Lewis, a partner at Irwin Mitchell law firm, who represented the family, said: ‘Clare’s life has been left devastated by the meningitis.

‘Our expert medical evidence suggested that if the correct diagnosis and care had been administered when she first showed symptoms, her life is likely to have been very different.

‘The settlement approved by the High Court today will ensure Clare has access to vital medical care that she will need for the rest of her life.

‘This will give her family the peace of mind that any ongoing treatment will now be taken care of.

‘Patient safety has to be the number one priority for everyone in the NHS and lessons must be learnt by this trust, and others across the country, to ensure the same mistakes do not happen again.’

Deborah Lee, deputy chief executive at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, apologised to Ms Day and her family.

‘On behalf of the trust, I am deeply sorry for the delay in Ms Day’s diagnosis,’ she said.

‘The trust has high standards for patient care and it is very regrettable that these standards were not achieved in Ms Day’s case.

‘We have committed to ensure any learning from this incident is acted upon. I would like to reiterate our sincere apology and wish Ms Day and her family the best for the future.’

WHAT IS TUBERCULOUS MENINGITIS?

Tuberculous meningitis (TB meningitis) is the most severe form of tuberculosis.

It occurs when tuberculosis bacteria invade the membranes and fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

The infection usually begins elsewhere in the body, usually in the lungs, and then travels through the bloodstream to the meninges where small abscesses (called microtubercles) are formed.

When these abscesses burst, TB meningitis is the result.

TB meningitis normally begins with vague, non-specific symptoms of aches and pains, low-grade fever, generally feeling unwell, tired, irritable, not being able to sleep or eat properly, and a gradually worsening headache.

This lasts for two to eight weeks. In the elderly, symptoms are even more subtle, often just drowsiness and feeling unwell.

It is not until weeks later that more obvious symptoms like vomiting, severe headache, dislike of lights, neck stiffness and seizures occur.

Without medical treatment, the disease will progress causing confusion, obvious signs of nerve damage and eventually resulting in coma.

Although 70 – 85 per cent of those affected will survive, up to one quarter of those may have long-term afer-effects.

Source: Meningitis Research Foundation

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