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Jill was a registered nurse and midwife who worked for Queensland Health for over 40 years. Following a lifetime as a dedicated essential healthcare worker, Jill planned to turn her focus on caring for her adult son, Timothy, who requires full-time care.

Jill's Boxing Day surgery turns into nightmare

Jill's trip to the Caboolture Hospital on Boxing Day of 2020 should have been for a routine surgery. She was booked in for surgical intervention for an umbilical hernia repair and treatment for her bowel obstruction.

However, after her surgery, she complained frequently of significant levels of pain and had frequent episodes of vomiting, temperature and tachycardia.

Despite these symptoms and complaints, Jill was transferred as an outlier patient in the paediatric ward. During this time, the nursing staff had difficulty contacting Jill's doctors to review her, with some calls going unanswered.

"I often think that if I hadn't been so sick, I would have recognised what was being missed and been able to stand up for myself more," says Jill.

Nearly a week later, on 31 December, doctors finally identified that Jill had a 5cm defect in the wall of her transverse colon, resulting in significant faecal soiling in her abdomen. With the time that had passed, Jill had also lost over 3.4 litres of blood. All resulting from her initial surgery on Boxing Day.

Jill then required a second surgery and remained in hospital for many weeks to recover, although she now struggles to remember much of this period.

The lasting impact of surgical complications on Jill's life

Since the medical injuries caused by her first surgery, Jill’s quality of life has not been the same. She has been left with less than 50cm of bowel, and her day-to-day activities are drastically affected. The complications of these injuries impact her not only physically but psychologically. 

Jill has lived on farm properties her entire life and loved having the quiet and wide-open spaces to work with her husband, Wayne. Sadly, since she cannot help with farmwork anymore, her family has had to hire assistance to manage the property so Wayne can care for both Jill and Timothy. Jill's whole family now suffers as a result of her Boxing Day hospital trip.

"It is difficult to sit back and rely on my husband, Wayne, to do more for the whole family now. These injuries have completely changed not only my life but my family's as well."

Unfortunately, perforations can occur during abdominal surgeries. However, patients should be closely monitored post-operatively for signs and symptoms of infections. Failing to diagnose and treat infections in a timely manner can lead to catastrophic injuries, like Jill's, or even death.

The fight for compensation after alleged medical negligence

"If Jill's perforation and infection were identified and treated earlier, we allege that she would have avoided her outcome, and she would have been able to care for her son and enjoy the retirement that she deserved," says medical negligence lawyer, Anna Sullivan.

"While there is no amount of compensation that will ever be enough to turn back the clock on Jill's incident, we will fight alongside Jill to ensure she is properly compensated for the impact this has had on her life and her family's lives."

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