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The Bristol heart babies Monday, 22 March, 1999, 20:21 GMT
'Travesty of brain-damaged success'
18.41 22.03.99 op ac
The inquiry is examining child heart surgery in Bristol
A girl who was left severely brain damaged following complex heart surgery was deemed a "success", the Bristol Royal Infimary Inquiry has heard.

The Bristol Heart Babies
The operation was performed by Mr Janardhan Dhasmana, one of the shamed surgeons at the heart of the BRI scandal.

The girl's parents say it is a travesty that their daughter counts as one of his successes because her heart defect was corrected.

However, the public inquiry earlier heard a glowing tribute to Mr Dhasmana's skills and compassion.

Shocking outcome

Penelope Plackett told the inquiry how her daughter is now "spastic, quadriplegic and likely to suffer epilepsy".

Sophie Plackett was born with a heart murmur and breathing difficulties.

Mr Dhasmana recommended an operation to correct the condition, known as truncus arteriosis.

Although the cardiac problems were fixed, it was soon noticed that Sophie had neurological problems. A brain specialist was called in to examine her.

Mrs Plackett said he told her: "There is nothing of the brain left except the brain stem. There is nothing that can be done for her, just take her home."

She added: "I was so shocked and distressed, I just could not think of anything to say."

She said the neurologist then stood up and walked from the room.

Brain damage risks were not explained

Although Mr Dhasmana explained the risks of Sophie dying if the procedure was unsuccessful, Mrs Plackett said, he never mentioned the possibility of brain damage after the operation.

"I was told that if she survived the operation she would lead a normal life and be like any child of her age," she said.

Mr Dhasmana told her Sophie had a 50-50 chance of surviving the operation, and he revised this to 80% the day before the operation because Sophie seemed strong.

Mrs Plackett has since discovered that Mr Dhasmana had done four operations similar to that he performed on Sophie.

"All four of them had died," she said. "I do not see how he could have given her a 50-50 chance."

'I should have asked more questions'

She said she now regretted not getting more information from Mr Dhasmana before the operation.

18.41 22.03.99 dhasmana ac
Mr Janardhan Dhasmana was criticised and praised during day four of the inquiry
She said: "With hindsight I am acutely aware I did not ask enough questions.

"I thought a surgeon would be competent and skilful. I thought a cardiac surgeon would be even more so and I believed a paediatric cardiac surgeon would be supremely skilful and competent in his work.

"I never thought to question what his record was. I never thought to ask him how many he had done, how many have lived, how many had died?"

"My Sophie is still classed as a success even though she cannot walk, talk, move or do anything for herself.

"Under their criteria because she lived for 30 days after the operation she is still counted as one of their successes and I think that is a travesty."

Surgeon's ability praised

Earlier in the day the inquiry heard from Paula Jordan, whose son Joe was born with half a heart.

She praised Mr Dhasmana for saving her son's life. Other doctors had told her Joe had no chance of survival, she said.

But Mr Dhasmana said he thought he could help.

"I came to (Mr Dhasmana) with the knowledge that no-one could help us, that nothing could be done for him, Miss Jordan said.

"When he said to me that the thought he could treat Joe I thought I had won the pools."

She saw diagrams illustrating what the operation would entail. She understood that without surgery, Joe would die, she said.

She and her partner consented to the operation, which was successful.

Joe required a second operation when he was two. Mr Dhasmana carried out the procedure.

Happy with Mr Dhasmana

Eleanor Grey, counsel for the inquiry, asked Miss Jordan if she was happy with Mr Dhasmana performing the operation.

Miss Jordan said: "Because I was told initially there was no hope for Joe and my son got to two years old, I had so much admiration and gratitude for him.

"Mr Dhasmana was the only person I wanted to continue our treatment."

Miss Jordan said the operation was a success: "Now (Joe) is a normal, happy and well-adjusted little boy.

"He's eight years old and goes to a normal school. He plays in the village football team.

"We say he was born with a broken heart but he's all right now."

Admiration and graditude

Professor Ian Kennedy, the inquiry chairman, asked if she had Miss Jordan had anything else to add.

She said: "To this day I can't believe this has happened to someone like Mr Dhasmana.

"I had such admiration and gratitude for him.

"He was such a gentle, caring person. I owe him my son's life and I think this must be just devastating for someone as caring as he was."

See also:

22 Mar 99 | The Bristol heart babies
19 Mar 99 | The Bristol heart babies
17 Mar 99 | The Bristol heart babies
18 Mar 99 | The Bristol heart babies
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