Hospital Error Causes Man to Lose Penis to “Superbug” Infection: 5 Fast Facts

Credit: Andrew Lane / US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/ Derivative Works

Essex, England — No man, particularly not one who’s in the hospital — ever wants to hear the words “flesh-eating bacteria” and “penis” in the same sentence.

But a patient in the UK has lost most of his penis to a what is being called “a flesh-eating superbug”. As a result, he’s suing the hospital in Southern England where he was treated prior to the loss.

Here are 5 Fast Facts you should know about this story:

1The Patient Entered the Hospital for Routine Surgery

Andrew Lane, seen here before contracting the infection, and his wife Sue. Credit: Slater Gordon

Andrew Lane, 61, from Thurrock, Essex, in England, entered the hospital in March 2013 for routine prostate surgery. During the procedure, his bowel was punctured. But the surgical error went unnoticed for several days. This led to an infection. Lane said,

“It has just been a horrendous experience, I thought I was going to die,”

2The Infection Caused Him to Contract a Deadly Flesh-Eating “Superbug”

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Beautiful but deadly: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is involved in up to one third of the cases of flesh-eating bacteria. Credit: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

By the time the mistake was discovered, it was too late. A deadly “superbug” necrotising fasciitis, had invaded his body, and he was fighting for his life. Necrotising fasciitis (NF), also called “flesh-eating disease” is a severe infection characterized by sudden onset and rapid spread in the body. It results in the death of the body’s soft tissue.

The bacteria has been called “terrifying” since it and similar “group A streptococcus bacteria” began to cause a sharp rise in skin and throat infections in the UK 18 years ago. According to the English newspaper The Telegraph,

“Scientists from Imperial College London and Public Health England identified a jump in cases of streptococcus infection from 1998 to 2009”

The newspaper quoted Professor Shiranee Sriskandan of Imperial College as follows:

“We know very little about how group A streptococcus is transmitted from person to person. We need to look into this more deeply and think about better ways to prevent transmission”

As a reporter for The Telegraph pointed out,

“Scientists are still unclear about how the…new variant came to be so dominant”

What is known is that the bacteria enters the body through a break in the skin — such as, in Lane’s case, a surgical incision — and it typically affects the limbs or the pubic/anal area. According to most estimates, it is fatal in one of four cases. In Lane’s case, the infection ate away at the skin in his lower abdominal area, severely damaging his genitals.

Lane was in the hospital for eight weeks while doctors fought to save his life. He recalled,

“I was taken to [an operating] theatre three times [in one night] while the surgeons took more and more tissue away,”

He survived, but he lost most of his penis to the bacteria. Lane said in a statement released by his attorneys,

“I’d never even heard of the bug before and had no idea of the damage it could do, but if speaking out can raise awareness and stop one more person having to go through what I’ve been through then it will have been worth it”

3The Patient Was Youthful and in Good Physical Condition Prior to the Surgery

Lane’s freakishly protruding abdomen: “I can’t ever bear to look at myself naked.” Credit: Slater Gordon

Lane says he was very physically fit and had a good body for his age before the botched procedure. But that’s all in the past, now. Because of his ordeal, a large amount of diseased tissue had to be removed from his lower abdomen. This has left him with a freakish abdominal protrusion, where the outer tissue was eaten away by the bacteria.

“I was super-fit before all this,” said Lane. “I had a good body,” he explained,” but now I look like I’m nine months pregnant”

He added, sadly, “I can’t ever bear to look at myself naked”. However, he said that he has recently begun to come to terms with his injuries and his condition.

4As a Result of the Botched Surgery and the Resulting Infection, Lane Has Lost Most of His Penis and Can No Longer Have Sex

Andrew Lane is seen here in the emergency room. A routine surgical procedure resulted in a major MRSA infection. Credit: The Sun / Andrew Lane / Screen Grab

Lane said,

“I lost from my belly button to just above the groin and I’ve not got much left of a penis,”

Lane’s penis wasn’t totally lost due to the infection, but he can no longer have sex with his wife, his long-time partner Sue, whom he married soon after being discharged from the hospital. Lane reported,

“The most difficult bit is not being able to have sex with my wife anymore, We’re a normal couple who enjoyed it as part of a healthy relationship and I do miss that”

Experts say the damage is irreversible. For two years after his release from the hospital, he had to use a catheter and colostomy bag. He still needs a special device  to help him urinate.

5He is Suing the Hospital that Botched the Surgery

Southend University Hospital in Essex, England. Credit: Google Maps

Andrew Lane has not only lost much of his penis and is unable to have sex — he has also been unable to return to his previous job as an architectural draftsman. As a result, he’s taking legal action against Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

The lawsuit asserts that his bowel was punctured during the original operation, that this error was not detected for days afterwards, and that the error led to the infection that nearly killed him. Lane’s attorney is Nick Greaves, a clinical negligence specialist at the British law firm Slater and Gordon, who is representing Lane in the civil action.

According to Greaves,

“Mr. Lane believed he was going into hospital for a routine operation and would be home within days. Instead, he has been left with permanent and life-changing injuries that have turned his world upside down”

Greaves concluded,

“Although nothing can change that, he wants to know what happened and ensure it is fully investigated and everything possible done to prevent anyone else having to go through the same ordeal”

A spokesperson for the Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said the hospital is aware of the lawsuit but could not comment as the case is an “ongoing matter”.

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