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Firefighter Loses Lung in Mistaken Cancer Scare


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Firefighter Loses Lung in Mistaken Cancer Scare

Posted on: Tuesday, 12 August 2008, 00:00 CDT

By Jonathan Brown

A firefighter whose lung was removed after he was misdiagnosed with cancer said yesterday that he had received neither an explanation nor an apology from the health trust responsible for the catastrophic error.

Laurence Ball, 58, described how he lost his 50,000-a-year job and suffered an 80 per cent reduction in his health following the operation which left him unable to do strenuous activity.

"Before I was an operational firefighter. I could carry men up ladders and down ladders. I could take part in most dynamic activities imaginable. But now if I walk up a flight of stairs I have to stop and get my breath back," said the father of four, from Mossbank, Shetland.

"The impact of this on my life and my family is hard to imagine. I have lost everything - my job, my health, and I have had years of what should have been a happy retirement stolen from me. I was exhilarated to have survived the operation and then to be told that I didn't have cancer - I could not get my head around the words."

Mr Ball first went to his GP in 2005 when he contracted a chest infection. After initial treatment failed to help, he was sent for an X-ray and told he had non-small-lung cancer in the upper left lobe of his left lung, and would have to have surgery at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

However, after the organ was removed, the surgeon told Mr Ball and his wife that he would not need chemotherapy because he had not had cancer in the first place. "For the next few days I was in deep shock," he added.

He is now having independent tests and preparing a court action against NHS Grampian. The health authority said in a statement: "The clinical course of action agreed for Mr Ball was arrived at following the review of all relevant information ... by a multidisciplinary group of clinicians. It was considered to be the appropriate action based on this information. NHS Grampian deeply regrets that, with hindsight, the procedure that Mr Ball underwent may not have been necessary."

As a firefighter with 31 years experience, Mr Ball had received awards for bravery during his career. Now he is living on a disability allowance, with his wife Cindy, 51, taking on extra work to maintain the couple's standard of living. Mr Ball's lawyer took his case to NHS Grampian but, after an investigation, health officials concluded there was no individual guilty of incompetence or negligence.

Tavish Scott, the Liberal Democrat MSP for Shetland, said the case highlighted the need for a speedy "no blame" compensation for victims of health service mistakes. "NHS Grampian should not be using funding, needed to run the health service, to fight a legal battle against Mr Ball," he added.

© 2008 Independent, The; London (UK). Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

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