Mum’s agonising pain that left her unable to leave home after surgery she ‘didn’t need’


Donna Johnstone, 48, from Wigan, Greater Manchester, says her six-figure compensation payout is “irrelevant” as she feels trapped in a “prison” of pain inside her own body

A mum says she feels like a “prisoner” in her own body after having an operation she “didn’t need” for a niggling pain in her neck.

Donna Johnstone, 48, used to be a busy and active working mum, but now she feels she has completely “lost her identity” after being left with agonising daily pain, reports LiverpoolEcho.

The mum-of-two from Wigan, Gtr Manchester was referred to Liverpool’s neuro-hospital, the Walton Centre, after experiencing a niggling pain in her arm and neck in 2013.

She followed their advice to have a spinal cord disc surgically removed from her neck – an operation which “no reasonable body of neurosurgeons would have offered”, according to a Civic Court judge.

Now Donna can barely leave the house and is dosed up on a cocktail of painkillers.

She claims she feels like throwing herself off a cliff some days as she struggles to cope with the pain.

She told ManchesterEveningNews : “I have lost my whole identity as a busy working mum.

“My family have also lost the wife and mother I used to be and now it is they who have to care for me.

“I can’t go on holiday as it makes it even harder to manage the pain in different accommodations.

“It’s like being trapped in a prison with no prospect of ever being released.”

Donna believes her original niggling pain was the result of spending around eight hours a day on a machine – where her head was at a “tilt”.

For years, Donna had worked manufacturing electrical cables in the family business, Roga Cables.

After a visit to her GP, she visited a physio who recommended she see a neurosurgeon.

An MRI scan revealed a problem with her spinal cord disc in her neck and Donna was placed under the care of a surgeon at the Walton Centre who recommended the surgery.

Donna had worked full-time right up to the date of the surgery in August 2013, but since the op, she has never been able to return to work.

She said: “I was very reluctant about surgery because my brother had been left paralysed after having an operation.”

Her sibling had been left with catastrophic injuries after being struck by a drunk driver in 2005 and now requires 24-hour care from Donna’s parents.

She added: “The thought of having surgery in my neck was terrifying. I was very concerned.

“I was working up until the day of the surgery. The pain hadn’t stopped me from working, it was just troubling me.

“I finished work on that Friday and haven’t been back since.”

Now following a trial at Manchester Civic Crown court in May last year, the NHS hospital has been ordered to pay Donna a six-figure compensation payout and issued an apology in which they admitted they had “let her down”.

Judge Claire Evens said if Ms Johnstone had been “appropriately advised,” she would not have progressed to surgery.

Judge Evens also agreed with two neurological experts that the mum’s pain has been “exacerbated” by the surgery and subsequent surgeries since 2013.

But Donna claimed the payout was “irrelevant” and said the money will only be used to help manage her daily chronic pain.

In the first three weeks post-surgery, everything seemed initially OK – until she developed a “ridiculous” pain in her neck.

“It got to a point where I couldn’t bear the pain I was in,” she said.

“They thought I might have developed an infection so I was given months of antibiotics.

“It wasn’t a nice time. I was very poorly and lost a lot of weight.

“I didn’t improve and the pain was still getting worse.

“I was taking a ridiculous amount of pain medication. I just got to a point where I thought what is the point in all of this.”

Donna underwent two more surgeries with a private health firm in 2016 and 2019 and was beginning to manage her pain with quarterly infusions.

But when Covid hit and non-essential appointments came to a standstill, she says she was left without treatment for 12 months and claims she has had to start the process again.

However, two neurological experts agreed in court that Donna will most likely suffer from daily pain for the rest of her life.

Donna said: “If I am having a bad day I won’t do anything.

“If I wake up and think I am having a good day I do a few things but then the day after you pay for it.

“You feel guilty when you’ve worked all your life. I even feel bad that I am not bringing money into the house.

“It just degrades you and strips you of your dignity.”

The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust claimed they had nothing further to add when approached for comment, but did confirm the surgeon in question was still working at the hospital.