Tetraplegic Jamie Merrett left brain damaged after nurse switched off life support machine by mistake

October 25, 2010 | by | 1 Comment

A man paralysed in a car crash has been left brain damaged after his nurse was caught on camera switching off his life support machine.

Tetraplegic Jamie Merrett left brain damaged after nurse switched off life support machine by mistake

Tetraplegic Jamie Merrett, 37, was so worried about the standard of care he was receiving by agency nurses that he installed a bedside camera at his home.

Within days it captured bungling Violetta Aylward switching off his ventilator by mistake.

Jamie was aware of her error but could do nothing apart from click his tongue as he desperately tried to alert her and others to the situation.

After an alarm sounded, Violetta fetched Jamie’s carer who immediately realised the gravity of the situation and told her to quickly resuscitate him.

But Violetta struggled to operate resuscitation equipment – leaving Jamie dangerously close to death.

After 21 minutes, the life support machine was eventually restarted by paramedics but by then Jamie had suffered serious brain damage – he now has the understanding of a young child.

In the footage, paramedics ask Violetta if she has been trained to use the equipment – to which she replies ”No”.

Jamie’s sister Karren Reynolds, who lives with her brother in Melksham, Wilts., is now considering legal action against Ambition 24hours, the agency which supplied Violetta Aylward.

Mrs Reynolds said: ”His life is completely changed. He doesn’t have a life now.

”He has an existence but it’s nowhere near what it was before. He is very brain damaged compared to what he was.

”He was a highly intelligent man and you could have long in-depth conversations with him and now it tends to be more simplistic.”

Jamie has been cared for at home on a life support machine since 2002 after being paralysed from the neck down following a road accident.

Despite being tetraplegic, he was able to talk and use a wheelchair and voice-activated computer.

He sent health bosses emails outlining his concern about the competence of nurses operating his ventilator but became frustrated when they did not act.

Tetraplegic Jamie Merrett left brain damaged after nurse switched off life support machine by mistake

In January 2009, he arranged to have a camera installed in his bedroom and days later it filmed Violetta Aylward, from Reading, switching off his life support.

But after realising the mistake she was unable to use the Ambu bag to resuscitate him as she failed to put it correctly into the hole in his neck.

A confidential report by Wiltshire social services found Ambition 24hours was fully aware it was required to supply a nurse who was trained to use a ventilator.

But crucially it did not have adequate systems in place to check what training their staff had received.

Tetraplegic Jamie Merrett left brain damaged after nurse switched off life support machine by mistake

Mr Merrett’s Solicitor Seamus Edney, of SJ Edney in Swindon, slammed the mistake as ”the worst case” of negligence he has ever seen.

He said: ”In my experience, this is the worst case of negligence on the part of a nurse.

”No-one has come forward to make any admission, so now almost two years after the event we are trying to get someone to admit liability for what has happened.”

A spokeswoman from NHS Wiltshire Primary Care Trust said new measures had been implemented to prevent further mistakes.

She said: ”[We have] put in place a series of actions to ensure that such an event will not occur again either for this patient or others.

Tetraplegic Jamie Merrett left brain damaged after nurse switched off life support machine by mistake

”The incident is the subject of likely litigation so the PCT is restricted in what further it may say in public.”

Ms Aylward has been suspended while the incident is investigated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Ambition 24hours said it could not comment as it is investigating the incident.

The programme will be shown on Inside Out West and Inside Out South on BBC One at 1930 BST on Monday 25 October.

Picture credit: BBC Inside Out West

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Comments (1)

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  1. Burney says:

    It’s happening more every day in every way, the UK is becoming a banana republic! People are saying they are scared of having to go into hospital, they have lost faith in the way thing are run. This applies across the board. I’ts an absolute shambles!

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