£2.5m payout for boy who lost his legs

(Reproduced with the kind permission of the Kent Messenger Group).

GP failed to diagnose meningitis 11 years agoA Folkestone schoolboy who lost both his legs after a doctor failed to diagnose meningitis has been awarded more than £2.5 million.

Seb McDonnell, of Appledore Crescent, was just four when he became ill on Christmas Day 1997.

Dr Pia Holwerda, of The White House Surgery, in Cheriton High Street, was called out twice to visit him but failed to see that he was seriously ill.

Seb, a pupil at Pent Valley school, said, “I’m happy we’ve won the Court case but it’s not going to bring my legs back.”

Dr Pia Holwerda, of The White House Surgery in Cheriton High Street, was called out twice to visit him at his grandparent’s home in Shorncliffe Road, but failed to spot that he was seriously ill.

He had a raging temperature, a headache, an aversion to bright lights, a burning body but cold feed and hands and was vomiting.

The doctor told his mother Christina to give him a cool bath.

Within a few hours he became covered in blood blisters and was having fits.

His mother called an ambulance. Meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia were diagnosed at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford.

He was then rushed to Guy’s in London where he was on a life support machine for the next two months.

Seb 15, had to have a leg amputated and the tips of four fingers.

He had 46 operations to save the other leg but that was also amputated two years ago.

Dr Holwerda was found to be negligent at a hearing before a High Court Judge in 2005. The damages figures were agreed at the High Court last Thursday.

Miss McDonnell said: “I can’t believe it is finally over”.

“It’s been a long battle to get compensation. We can now look to the future.”

Seb, his mum and his six year old sister Sophia, are look forward to moving into a bigger house.

Seb, a pupil at Pent Valley school who hopes to pursue a music career, said: “I’m happy we’ve won the Court case but it’s not going to bring my legs back.”

The money will be controlled by a solicitor for the rest of Seb’s life.

Seb – through his mother Christina – sued Dr Pia Holwerda, who was found to have been negligent in a hearing before High Court Judge, Mr Justice Newman in May 2005.

The Judge said at the time that the GP had been “too dismissive and insufficiently investigative” and adopted a “brusque approach” when examining him.

“The situation called for a less cursory and more searching investigation”, said the Judge, adding that the GP had shown “a rigidity and certainty” in failing to inquire further into Sebastian’s condition.

The GP, said the Judge, “left insufficient room for suspicion” and “did not permit suspicion to exist during her examination when, in truth, greater suspicion and inquiry was called for”.

However, Mr Justice Newman’s ruling left open the issue of whether or not the GP’s failures had increased the severity of Seb’s injuries and it was only on Thursday that final settlement terms were agreed.

Last week at London’s High Court, before Mr Justice Jack, Seb’s legal team agreed to accept a lump sum payment of £2,581,993.95 to settle his claim.

Joel Donovan, for Seb, told the Court that as well as the loss of his limbs, Seb suffers from epilepsy, headaches and learning difficulties.

Jonathan Holl-Allen for Dr Holwerda, praised Miss McDonnell for the heroic efforts she had made in providing care for her son and paid tribute to the dignified way she had conducted herself throughout the legal battle.

Mr Justice Jack, approving the settlement, concluded: “I suspect that Sebastian’s mother would have liked to have been her, because very happily a line has been drawn and, for her, this particular battle is over. I wish her well.”