THE tragic death of a South Tyneside grandad after a minor holiday mishap has prompted hospital bosses to review how they treat patients with fractures.
Jackson Rowan was on a caravan break with his wife, Sandra, in Richmond, North Yorkshire, when he tripped on a kerb and twisted his ankle.
After a visit to hospital, the 69-year-old found he had suffered a fracture and was put in a cast. But less than four weeks later, he died from a blood clot, caused by deep vein thrombosis as a result of his injury.
An inquest, held yesterday at the Coroner’s Office in Hebburn, heard how a drug to prevent his blood from clotting could have saved his life, had he been given it.
His wife, a former nurse, described it as a “lottery”, saying that some doctors would automatically prescribe it and others would not.
The hearing, led by South Tyneside coroner Terence Carney, was told that hospital trusts in South Tyneside and Darlington are now making changes to the way patients with similar injuries will be treated in future.
Mr Rowan, who had three children and six grandchildren, was well known in Jarrow as a butcher at family-run firm, E Grieves.
Speaking at the inquest, his wife said the couple had been staying at their caravan with friends in September 2012, when Mr Rowan tripped and sprained his left ankle.
The next day, she insisted her husband go to the nearest hospital, Darlington Memorial to have it looked at.
He was given an X-ray and put in a cast before being asked to return two days later, on Monday, and attend the fracture clinic.
Mrs Rowan asked if they could attend the clinic at South Tyneside District Hospital instead and was given his X-rays to take with them.
She called the A&E department in South Shields that night and made an appointment for Monday.
Mrs Rowan told the hearing that at South Tyneside, doctors commented on how poor his cast was and replaced it before giving him another X-ray.
He was given an appointment to return in four weeks, but died three days before he was due to attend.
On the night of October 11, 2012, the couple had been sat watching television when Mr Rowan, of Wansbeck Road, Jarrow, suggested they go up to bed.
Mrs Rowan said: “He was going up the stairs on his bum – that’s how he’d been doing it – and I went to get him a drink. When I got back, he was just halfway up the stairs and complaining that he was breathless.”
She told the hearing she called her children, who went straight there, and that she thought he was suffering a pulmonary embolism – a blood clot.
Paramedics were called and he was taken to the hospital, in Harton Lane, South Shields, where medical staff fought to save him, but he died just after midnight on October 12.
Mrs Rowan said: “In this day and age, no one should die from a broken ankle.”
She also said he should have been given treatment to prevent his blood from clotting. She also said he was high risk because of his age and the fact his mother, father and brother had all died from blood clots.
But she said his situation was never even assessed. Mr Carney said: “We will never know if this prophylaxis (treatment) would have prevented his death, or indeed that it wouldn’t have, but the chances are that it would.
“He should have at the very least been assessed.”
Dr Ola Afolabi, a consultant in A&E medicine at Darlington Memorial Hospital, said that at the time it wasn’t the hospital’s policy to automatically prescribe a drug for potential blood-clotting, but that if Mr Rowan had gone to the hospital with the same injury today, it would be given.
Dr Alan Rodgers, medical director of South Tyneside Foundation Trust, said that the borough hospital was also moving towards this and that it was at the top of the agenda for a meeting on February 4, although he acknowledged that “one sad case is too many”.
Mr Carney said: “The trusts here today would say that that which has been achieved over this time has been achieved primarily by Sandra Rowan’s efforts.
“She has been clearly motivated by the catastrophic loss of her husband, but despite that grief and that catastrophe, it has motivated her forward not only to find out exactly what went wrong and what should have happened, but also, with a mind’s eye to others, to avoid others suffering as she has suffered.
“And that has to be said. It’s a commendable point.
“I intend to write to both trusts in order for them to confirm to me that they have changed their procedures and to keep me updated as to how that progress is going.”
Giving a narrative finding, Mr Carney said: “He died as a result of an inadvertent fall leading to injury consequent essential immobilisation, but without assessment of the risk of recognised potentially fatal but nonetheless treatable consequences.”
THE family of Jackson Rowan described him as “the nicest man you could ever wish to meet”.
Speaking after his inquest, his widow, Sandra, said: “I am pleased with the outcome.
“Hopefully this will stop another family from going through what we’ve been through and being sat where we have today, because I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”
She added: “The pathologist said Jackson had a big heart, and I wasn’t surprised at all, that’s exactly how I would describe him.
“He was just the simplest and nicest man you could ever wish to meet.
“He was a pillar of the community.”
The couple were married in 1969, having been together for four years before that.
Other members of the family at the hearing said they were proud of Mrs Rowan, and everything she had done to campaign for changes in treatment since her husband’s death.
They described her as “a brave woman”.