WARNING: Distressing images
Queensland man Wade Phillips Brown is considering having his foot cut off.
For the past 2½ years, the now 23-year-old has been going back and forth with doctors after an infection in his right heel in late 2020.
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Despite seeing several doctors, the infection — which caused a build-up of fluid in his heel — initially went undetected.
After almost two weeks of intense pain and swelling, Phillips Brown ended up having surgery on his foot to help eliminate the infection.
But his ordeal didn’t end there.
Due to ongoing pain, he’s been left unable to walk normally, so is without a job and has lost his independence.
He’s also had to move from Mackay to Brisbane to be closer to the specialists he needs.
Phillips Brown believes if the infection had been detected on his first presentation to his GP or the hospital in the days after the pain began, or if he had been prescribed antibiotics early enough, he would not be in the situation he is in.
He’s now planning to take legal action against several GPs and a Queensland hospital that he claims didn’t take him seriously.
“It has impacted me greatly … financially, mentally, physically,” he said.
“I physically can’t do anything. I can’t put shoes on and work. I’d need special athletic shoes but I can’t afford that.”
Phillips Brown has been left with almost no other option, and is now considering removing his foot, so he can get his life back on track before his situation gets even worse.
Back and forth
Phillips Brown’s foot began to ache after he kicked a stack of pellets at work on October 22, 2020.
He didn’t think much of the pain initially. He rested his foot that day and expected to wake up feeling fine the next morning.
But over the next few days, the pain worsened to the point it kept him up at night.
He also couldn’t walk on his foot — which also began to appear red and was warm to the touch.
Phillips Brown took himself to a GP to have his foot examined for the first time, four days after it began to hurt.
At that first appointment, Phillips Brown was told to rest his foot, apply ice and take painkillers.
The next day, with the pain not improving, he saw a different GP who prescribed painkillers and ordered an X-ray.
By the 29th, the pain got so bad Phillips Brown was walking on his tip-toes.
He saw a third doctor, who said he likely had internal bruising or a hairline fracture. Pain relief and rest was recommended again.
But on the 30th, almost a week after the kick — which doctors later said had nothing to do with his condition — Phillips Brown presented to the emergency department at Mackay Base Hospital.
Again, he was prescribed painkillers and sent on his way, he claims.
Over the next four days, Phillips Brown returned to the hospital twice and saw two GPs, searching for answers.
On this third trip to the hospital, an ultrasound of his foot revealed his heel was filled with fluid.
He was then rolled into the operating theatre to have surgery to release the pressure on his foot.
“They explained the procedure was going to be quick and simple and that I would recover from it in no time,” he said.
Phillips Brown spent three days recovering in hospital and later learned doctors had removed the fat pad in his heel.
One doctor later suggested the infection came about after an insect bite.
In the 2½ years since, Phillips Brown still can’t walk normally on his foot.
While surgery helped remove the infection, the ongoing pain has left Phillips Brown without the natural roll of his foot. He says it feels like a rock has been lodged in his foot.
He also says he’s received conflicting advice from doctors post-surgery.
When he walks now, he walks on his tip-toes which is having adverse effects on the rest of his body.
“I’ve now starting to get scoliosis (in my back) and my hips are 20mm out and rotating inwards because of the way I’ve been walking for the past 2½ years.
“I just want a resolution soon because, like, I don’t want my whole body to be affected from this.”
He’s attended countless doctors’ appointments and now feels like he’s been left with no other choice but to amputate his foot. At least two doctors have suggested the possibility of amputation to him, he said.
It’s the only way he thinks he can move on with his life, get a job and be independent.
Phillips Brown had been working in manual labour before the infection.
“It’s my only way forward at this stage,” he said.
“I’m so young but I’ve gone through almost three years of it, I just want to get back to normal life.
“Plus I don’t want to have an amputation done when I’m 50 or 60 or 70.”
Phillips Brown is now planning to take legal action against Mackay Base Hospital and the GPs he saw, for damages due to medical negligence.
“I’m not out there for millions of dollars,” he said.
He simply wants to recover the out-of-pocket costs and lost wages, he said.
He also says the ordeal has left him with little trust in the health system.
“I absolutely have no trust in the hospital, which is really bad to say because they’re the people who are supposed to help you,” he said.
“I’m very fearful now. If some emergency does happen I don’t want to go to the hospital because I don’t feel safe in their care anymore.”
Phillips Brown said he shared his story after seeing another claim that Mackay Base Hospital had neglected its duty of care.
One-year-old Amity Buchanan was taken to the hospital last week when her parents Jemma and Daniel Buchanan suspected she’d swallowed something dangerous.
She was vomiting and choking but, upon arrival at the hospital, the parents say they were told no beds were available.
A doctor checked Amity over with a stethoscope before sending the young family home.
After seeing their GP, who urged them to return to the emergency department, the concealed danger in Amity’s throat was finally revealed — she had swallowed a button battery.
But even with the knowledge that a button battery was lodged in Amity’s esophagus, the family say they were sent back out to the waiting room.
“We waited 15 minutes knowing that my daughter has a battery in her throat,” Daniel said.
Amity was then sent to Townsville for emergency surgery to remove the battery, but the damage was done. 7NEWS understands Amity now has an 8cm acid burn in her throat.
Mackay Hospital and Health Service interim chief executive Dr Charles Pain said he could not comment on Phillips Brown’s incident.
“I am unable to provide any comment on this matter at this time as it is subject to legal proceedings,” he said.
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