MUM-OF-TWO Karen Booth can barely breathe and sometimes wishes she was dead - after a surgeon cut through a nerve in her neck during a thyroid operation.
The 33-year-old can walk for only a few yards, can’t do simple tasks without getting out of breath, and the neighbours bang on her wall at night as her breathing is so loud.
Now she has been told she isn’t entitled to compensation because hospital bosses insist she was verbally warned of the risks before surgery.
“Sometimes I wish I wasn’t here,” she told The Star. “It has completely ruined my life.
“It sounds ridiculous but I can’t even do the ironing without getting out of breath.
“When I sleep my breathing is so loud the neighbours bang on the walls, and my husband spends most nights on the sofa.
“I’m 33 and I feel like I’m trapped in the body of an old woman.”
Karen, who lives with her husband and children Katie, six, and Daniel, four, in Monk Bretton, Barnsley, was a nurse in an elderly patients’ unit before the operation in June 2009 to have her thyroid gland removed.
Barnsley Hospital insists she was verbally warned beforehand that there were risks associated with the operation, something Karen denies.
“I had the operation because I had chronic thyroiditis,” said Karen, crying. “Before the operation I signed a consent form - but I was never told there was any risk breathing difficulties could occur.
“When I woke up I couldn’t breathe at all.
“The surgeon had cut through my right laryngeal nerve.”
The operation left Karen’s vocal cord paralysed, leaving her with intense breathing problems, trouble speaking and even difficulty walking.
Today Karen said: “I just want to warn people to really research the risks of an operation before you go through with it. Now it is my word against a doctor’s and it seems there’s nothing I can do.
“I’m really hoping a solicitor will still take on my case.”
Time will run out for Karen next June - three years after the operation - which is the legal deadline for any settlement.
She said the after-effects of the op ruin every activity she does.
“I can’t go to the park with my kids, because if they run off I can’t keep up with them,” she said.
“I used to work at Mount Vernon Hospital as an auxiliary nurse, working with elderly people. I loved my job so much. But now I feel like one of the people I treated.
“It has left me completely helpless and there is nothing I can do about it.”
Elaine Jeffers, divisional director of surgery and critical care at Barnsley Hospital, said: “We’re very sorry Karen feels we let her down. When she first raised her complaint with us, we thoroughly looked into it and asked for an independent investigation to be carried out.
“It found her complication was a recognised risk in the type of surgery she had.
“Prior to her procedure Karen was made aware of all the risk factors including the risk of damage to the nerves around her vocal cords which, while rare, can happen.”
Vocal cord paralysis
n The right laryngeal nerve is also known as the recurrent nerve.
n It supplies motor function and sensation to the voice box.
n Due to its location in the neck, immediately behind the thyroid gland, the nerve is susceptible to damage during thyroid surgery.
n If it is damaged during surgery, the patient may suffer voice changes, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, breathing difficulties and even the inability to speak.
n Damage can be temporary or permanent.