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Wednesday, 5 December, 2001, 15:46 GMT
Foot-long tool 'left in patient'
Donald Church
Donald Church with a retractor like the one left in him
A US man was left in agony for more than two months after cancer surgeons sewed him up after an operation - with a 32cm metal tool still inside.

Donald Church complained about the pain - and the fact he couldn't bend over, but doctors said this was to be expected after major surgery.

He even set off metal detectors in airports.

The University of Washington Medical Centre has now paid almost $100,000 compensation to Mr Church.

The x-ray clearly shows the position of the retractor
The x-ray clearly shows the position of the retractor
His first operation was in May 2000, to remove a large abdominal tumour.

Normal practice is to count up the surgical instruments before "closing" the patient to make sure none is missing.

However, in this case, a "malleable retractor" - normally used to hold open the wound so that surgeons can reach in, was somehow overlooked.

Chunky instrument

Unsurprisingly, his recovery from such major surgery was not as swift as might be expected.

Mr Church said: "There were days when I would just roll up on the floor in the bathroom and sob, because I was in so much pain.


There were days when I would just roll up on the floor in the bathroom and sob, because I was in so much pain

Donald Church
"I couldn't figure out what was wrong with me."

At a check-up 30 days after the operation, he reported the pain to surgeons, but they told him not to worry.

"They just told me: 'You went through major surgery - you're going to feel some pain for a while.'"

Spotted

Eventually, his family doctor detected an oddly-shaped lump during a routine examination.


I've handled other cases where foreign bodies are left in, but usually it's a sponge, something small

Ralph Brindley, Mr Church's attorney
An x-ray clearly showed the presence of the steel rod, and a second operation was carried out to remove it.

Ralph Brindley, his attorney, said he had never encountered a case like it: "I was flabbergasted.

"I've handled other cases where foreign bodies are left in, but usually it's a sponge, something small.

Attorney
Ralph Brindley: "I was flabbergasted"
"When you look at these pictures, it's like, my God, how could this possibly happen?"

The hospital has since admitted liability and apologised to Mr Church - he hopes that they will change their procedures to make sure it does not happen again.

However, he says that if he ever has to undergo another operation, he wants it videotaped.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Karen Allen
"One of the world's most incredible medical botch-ups"
See also:

01 Feb 01 | Health
Doctors put wrong leg in plaster
21 Feb 01 | Health
Pensioner was blunder victim
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