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Delay in diagnosis of encephalitis leads to successful compensation claim

At 24 years-old, James was enjoying life; he was concentrating on his career and performing well in a job he loved, but one day, rather unexpectedly, he began to feel unwell and initially thought it was the flu. 

His mother, who was a qualified nurse, took James to see his GP, who completed an examination; the GP felt that James may be suffering from a virus and advised him not to drive and get plenty of rest.

Approximately a week later, James returned to work and seemed to be doing well. After about ten days he started to feel ill again and began to hallucinate. He is unable to recollect the entire incident but remembers that fellow colleagues, who had known him for some time, became very upset on seeing him like this. He was advised to go home and for his own safety, one of his colleagues agreed to drive him.

When he was eventually home, he stumbled and fell twice, so his mother contacted his GP, who advised her to bring James to the surgery immediately. As his mother was reversing the car out of the drive to take James to the surgery, he had a grand mal seizure on the drive and instead an ambulance was called, with James being taken immediately to hospital.

After investigation, James was discharged from hospital and was told that he was suffering from epilepsy. As he left, James was still having difficulty walking and was assisted by family; he continued to have a high temperature and did not like to look at the light.

The following day James deteriorated further and at the weekend became even worse; this time his mum decided to take him to see the out-of-hours GP. James continued to need assistance walking and was unwilling to open his eyes. The GP said that James was extremely ill and felt he should have a lumbar puncture to diagnose his condition. She put her recommendation in a letter which was underlined to emphasise the importance and on this advice James was re-admitted to hospital.

The results of the lumbar puncture took several hours, and the possibility of James having encephalitis was first mentioned the following evening. James was eventually seen by a neurologist the next day and was diagnosed with encephalitis caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus. James remained in hospital for a further 3-4 weeks and was given anti-viral drugs to clear the virus.

His mum comments: “It was an incredibly worrying time for us, it was clear that James was not himself from the way he was behaving and what he was saying – we were determined to try and find a diagnosis for his condition."

Following his experience, James successfully pursued a claim for compensation against the hospital and was represented by clinical negligence expert, Tim Spring of Moore Blatch, he says: “The delay in diagnosis has left a lasting impact on James’ life and although he appears the same physically, the hidden symptoms, including bouts of depression and memory/cognitive problems mean that James cannot fully return to the life he previously led, it is only right that he be compensated and receive the care and support he needs moving forward.”

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