Woman awarded 100k after swab ‘size of mini football’ left in her vagina for 3 weeks

A young mother has been awarded nearly £100,000 after a vaginal swab the size of “a mini football” was left inside her for nearly a month.

Claire Lalor visited hospital twice complaining of pain and a smell from her lower body but the swab was not found after staff failed to carry out internal examinations.

The 30-year-old was later diagnosed with C.dificile, a “significant infection”, as a result of unnecessary anti-biotic treatment she had been put on.

Ms Lalor was awarded nearly €140,000 (around £99,000) damages by the High Court in Ireland for injuries and trauma she suffered.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross found the trauma that the hairdresser, of Swords, Co Dublin, suffered was “extreme.”

The National Maternity hospital accepted liability for insertion of the swab and failure to detect it during the two visits by Ms Lalor and the case was before the judge to assess damages.

The case arose after Ms Lalor’s baby was delivered following a difficult birth at the NMH on Christmas Eve, 2012.

She was discharged from the hospital on December 27 but went back to the hospital on January 2 and January 9, on the advice of public health nurses over concerns about pain and a smell from her lower body.

On neither occasion was she examined internally at the NMH and instead she was given anti-biotics.

When she attended a third time on January 16, 2013, Ms Lalor described the smell as “disgusting” and “horrible.” She was examined internally and the swab was found.

Mr Justice Cross said Ms Lalor was “entirely appropriately extremely distressed” by this and he entirely accepted she was a truthful witness.

Two days after the swab was removed, she was extremely ill and returned a fourth time to the NMH where she was advised by a doctor she was suffering from post-natal depression, the judge said.

She was admitted to the hospital but when she went home, continued to suffer from sweating, chills, fever and diarrhoea and was unable to hold food down.

She was taken to Beaumont Hospital where she was diagnosed with C.dificile as a result of the unnecessary anti-biotic treatment she was put on before the swab was found.

As a result of that diagnosis, she became almost obsessive about cleanliness and was extremely fearful her baby would be infected.

The judge accepted evidence Ms Lalor was at no greater risk of future infection with C.dificile than anyone else but he accepted she was clearly more worried than an ordinary individual would be.

Ms Lalor was clearly entitled to be compensated for the very significant physical injuries she suffered as a result of the negligence of the NMH, the pain, smell and other symptoms experienced, the judge said.

The only real dispute concerned the psychological and psychiatric consequences, he said.

He accepted evidence, before the birth of her baby, Ms Lalor was vulnerable to psychiatric problems due to a bullying incident at work and other issues and had also had a mild depressive episode during her pregnancy.

While he fully accepted the circumstances of her baby’s birth were traumatic and, as a result, Ms Lalor would be at high risk of post-natal depression, he ruled that what she suffered, and continues to suffer, as a result of the swab issue was not post-natal depression but a depression or adjustment disorder caused by the swab.

Were it not for the negligence of the NMH, the judge believed that she would have recovered from any post birth upset in a short time and would not have had the psychological trauma she experienced.

A total award of €140,000 damages, he said, was fair and reasonable.

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