BY CONRAD HAMILTON Sunday Observer senior reporter ?firstname.lastname@example.org
FOR the near one hour that Sydney Clue shared his sad story with the Jamaica Observer, he exhibited very few emotions. However, it was obvious that his heart is heavy with sorrow, the result of his life-altering ordeal at the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) earlier this year.
The 64-year-old Clue, who was admitted to KPH with excruciating abdominal pains in December last year, left the hospital six months later without one of his legs and is now worried that the other will have to be amputated as it, too, has begun to show signs of deterioration.
Clue, who said he makes hammocks for a living and who identified himself as a former percussionist and a one-time member of the Twelve Tribes of Israel Rastafarian movement, lamented that his ability to earn an income has been shattered by what he insisted was negligence on the part of medical doctors at the KPH.
With a crutch beneath each arm, the Rastafarian Clue hopped into the Observer lobby last week to share his ordeal.
According to him, in December last year he was at his home in Gordon Town, St Andrew where he had prepared a meal of curried chicken.
He said he left some for his children, but realised the following morning that they had not come in.
Clue explained that later that same day he heated the meal and ate a portion, a routine he followed later that day when he consumed the remainder of the food.
However, minutes after the second meal he began to feel abdominal pains, which got worse, forcing his common-law wife to take him to the KPH the following day for treatment.
Clue, who also goes by the alias ‘Little D’, said he was examined by doctors who prescribed medication which significantly eased his discomfort and which also resulted in a resumption of bowel movement.
The man, who said he played drums for Bob Marley while the reggae icon was rehearsing for the world-famous Exodus album, told the Sunday Observer that the doctors at the hospital informed him that they were interested in carrying out further checks, but were being hampered by a malfunctioning piece of equipment which was needed to carry out the procedure.
“The morning after Miss Simpson Miller win the (2011) election, the doctor come ’round and say, ‘Mr Clue, this is your lucky day, the equipment is working’,” Clue said, adding that he was taken to the examination area where the test was done.
“Couple days after that, the doctor tell me that them see a mass in mi back and that them will have to examine it and take it out,” he added.
But ‘Little D’ was in for more problems, as, according to him, the doctors came back saying the machines which were to be used to conduct the test had again broken down, resulting in further delay.
He claimed that after another protracted wait, another group of doctors came to him in January and told him that they had to remove the mass. Clue said he consented and underwent the surgery.
Upon regaining consciousness, the father of 11 said he realised that one of his legs was heavily bandaged and he proceeded to ask what had happened, as he expected the operation to be performed on his back.
“The doctor said to me that when they cut me, they notice a blood vessel that swell like a balloon. He said they splice it to allow the blood to run out, some to the right of my body and some to the left,” explained Clue, who said he began to lose all sensation in the affected leg and noticed that the skin colour of the limb was getting darker.
“My foot turned black and when I make the shout the doctor come and say ‘Mr Clue, we have to amputate it’. I said ‘But doctor, I come here with a stomach problem and you telling me you have to cut off my foot?’.”
Clue said he remained in the hospital for months as the doctors indicated that they were doing more tests on him.
He said he was eventually discharged in June and went home to a very different life as he had to obtain crutches to help him get around.
But the former ‘Twelve Tribes’ man, who said he had travelled to Ethiopia and was once an associate of Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips during that politician’s days in the Rastafarian movement, said his woes have worsened as the other leg was injured after he fell while walking in Gordon Town.
According to him, the same situation that caused the damage to the left leg seems to be affecting the other leg.
However, he said he is in a major predicament as he has no money to go to private doctors and is scared of what might happen if he returns to the KPH.
Two socially prominent friends of Clue who spoke with the Sunday Observer said they are familiar with the situation and are saddened by the turn of events.
Ivan Coore, the son of late legislator David Coore, said he has had a 40-year friendship with Clue and explained that based on his discussions with persons in the medical fraternity, Clue had an aneurysm, or a swelling of a blood vessel which was treated by the medical team at KPH.
However, he added, based on his information, Clue did not benefit from proper aftercare, which is crucial to prevent surgical complications.
Talk show host Jerry Small, who described himself as Clue’s brethren since 1958 and who said they both travelled to Ethiopia, was livid when contacted by the Sunday Observer and expressed disgust with what had happened to his friend.
A senior medical consultant contacted for this article, but who asked not to be named as he was not authorised to speak on the case, agreed that the situation warrants an investigation which should involve a close examination of the procedures used to conduct the surgery and the quality of the post-surgery treatment.
According to the doctor, sideeffects such as the swelling of limbs are normally associated with procedures to remove aneurysms and there are steps which must be taken medically in order to prevent mishaps.
The doctor is questioning whether all these procedures were observed during the operation on Clue.
However, another medical doctor who also spoke on condition of anonymity is maintaining that there was no negligence on the part of the hospital and suggested that the amputation may have resulted from a complication associated with the procedure to correct the aneurysm.
He explained that the process could have resulted in the formation of clots in Clue’s leg.
However, he added that although medication can be administered to dissolve the clots, these drugs don’t always work.
The doctor, who admitted to being wary of patients claiming negligence, is also suggesting that Clue may have been affected by a condition known as abdominal aortic aneurysm, which happens when the large blood vessel that supplies blood to the abdomen, pelvis, and legs becomes abnormally large or balloons outward.
Meanwhile, Clue said he is interested in pursuing legal action, but has been told by one lawyer that his case would be weak.
According to him, the lawyer told him that once he signed the paper authorising the hospital to remove the leg, he has no case.
However, another local attorney who spoke with the Sunday Observer questioned that advice and stated that Clue’s complaint is one of many involving poor Jamaicans who believe they have suffered at the hands of doctors in the public health system who either misdiagnose or make serious errors while effecting medical procedures, particularly surgeries.
The attorney said some aggrieved individuals have gone to the courts to seek redress, while others, particularly those in abject poverty, go home to suffer without ever attempting to seek compensation from the State.
But attorney Yaneek Page, who manages Future Services International, told the Sunday Observer that this situation is changing as an increasing number of Jamaicans are seeking legal assistance as they move to challenge hospitals.
The attorney added that more hospitals and doctors are agreeing to settlements, even before matters go to court; an indicator, she said, of problems in the system.
She said it is a situation which highlights the need for the formation of patient advocacy groups, which are normally set up to spearhead calls for improved patient care, and which also provide advice to people using public health facilities.
Page added that Jamaicans who feel they are victims of medical negligence should not be afraid to seek legal assistance, and should not be satisfied with the advice of just one lawyer, as attorneys with experience in dealing with medical negligence cases are better placed to effectively represent them.
However, she asserted that the reluctance of hospitals to provide information such as medical records remains a challenge.
Another big problem she claimed, is the reluctance of local doctors to share information which may result in their colleagues being sanctioned.
As a result, Page said some local attorneys are now moving to obtain the services of overseas medical consultants in order to determine before the courts whether the procedures used were appropriate or resulted in harm to patients.
Last Friday, acting chief executive officer at the KPH Eulette Stephens told the Sunday Observer that she would be facilitating an investigation into the report and added that a senior medical doctor would be made available to respond to the queries.
Stephens disclosed that a review was underway and directed the Sunday Observer to Senior Medical Officer Dr Patrick Boorasingh, who explained that Clue will be invited to the hospital for a discussion.
While declining to provide details, due to what he cited as rules governing confidentiality, Boorasingh indicated that the Sunday Observer has not got all the details regarding Clue’s case.
However, he stated that those details could not be shared with the newspaper but will be discussed with the patient whenever he turns up at KPH.