Medical team works together to prevent Colburn woman from losing her leg

From left, Dr Vicky Ewan Mr McCann, Katy Allen, Margaret McCann and Adam Stannard.

Collaboration between a range of hospital and community teams saved a Colburn woman’s leg from complete amputation.

Margaret McCann, 69, who had previously undergone angioplasty, dialled 999 after experiencing excruciating pain in December 2023.

After receiving initial treatment from paramedics, she was referred to the trust’s urgent community response (UCR) team due to her reduced mobility.

The UCR team offers urgent care to people in their homes helping them to avoid hospital admissions.

Occupational therapist Katy Allen, who is based at Friarage Hospital and works as part of the UCR team, was tasked with providing care to Margaret in her Colburn home.

While visiting her on 29 December, Katy noticed Margaret’s right foot was infected and had a peculiar smell.

Suspecting something more serious, Katy instantly took a few pictures of her foot and sent them to Dr Vicky Ewan, the clinician lead for the hospital at home and the UCR team, for her advice.

Following a brief inspection of the pictures, Vicky advised the UCR team to collect Margaret’s blood samples, which were sent to the pathology lab for further testing.

Katy and Vicky’s doubts were brought to reality as blood samples showed Margaret had signs of serious infection and dehydration.

Vicky phoned Margaret and asked her to attend the same-day emergency care (SDEC) unit in The James Cook University Hospital to prevent further deterioration of her foot.

Margaret initially refused any such intervention as she had delirium due to her infection.

However, Vicky’s strong persuasion to get Margaret timely care bore fruit as she agreed to attend the SDEC on 30 December.

The SDEC team listed her for urgent surgery on New Year’s Eve following initial treatment.

As a result, consultant vascular surgeon Adam Stannard and his team operated on Margaret’s foot on 31 December.

During the surgery, Margaret’s two toes and another half a toe were amputated, and the hospital team removed a massive abscess – which is a painful swollen area that contains pus.

The surgeons had also discovered that Margaret had wet gangrene – a type of infection that develops deep inside the body and the bacteria responsible begins releasing gas.

Margaret said: “I was numb with shock when the doctors said that I had my toes amputated and I had a big hole in the sole of my foot after my operation.

“However, the doctors, nurses and even those ladies who made me tea were excellent. They would come in and check on me asking if I needed anything.

“Without Katy and Vicky’s intervention, my husband would have been a widow, and my son would have lost his mother.”

The Colburn resident is on her way to recovery and has been in rehabilitation at James Cook.

Delighted with Margaret’s recovery, Dr Vicky Ewan added: “Mrs McCann’s story highlights the importance of the strong links between our services at South Tees Hospitals – right from our urgent community response team to our hospital at home team and then to the vascular surgery team.

“It’s these working relationships, not just within teams but between different departments, that help keep our patients safe.”

Katy, who initially spotted the deadly infection, said: “It is incredibly rewarding to be a part of the team who have worked with Margaret.

“Seeing her smile and comfortable today is a testament to the support from her husband in questioning whether everything was ok and asking for second opinions, and also to all the dedicated and skilled professionals who have been party to her care.”

Adam Stannard added: “The infection in Mrs McCann’s foot was significant and spreading.  If her infection had not been picked by the UCR team, she would have most likely lost her leg and may have suffered other serious life-threatening complications.

“The fact we were given the opportunity through rapid communication and transfer to James Cook Hospital, enabled our team to avert the worst consequences to life and limb of a serious, spreading infection.”

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