Family of John Brackenbury, from Feltwell, who died during wait for surgery say they were “let down” by clinicians
PUBLISHED: 10:19 02 January 2018 | UPDATED: 08:47 03 January 2018
Archant © 2017
The family of a much-loved husband, father and grandfather have spoken of their anger of what they say was a lack of communication between medical staff which led to his death while awaiting surgery.
Described as “good fun” and a man with a sharp wit, salesman John Brackenbury was adored by his three children and seven grandchildren.
The 70-year-old, who lived in Feltwell with his wife Jean, died at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, in December 2016 after his brain surgery was cancelled and another patient was prioritised.
In December last year an inquest concluded that clinicians and the hospital were not “grossly neglectful” in Mr Brackenbury’s treatment. Mr Brackenbury died of a cerebral haemorrhage whilst awaiting specialist treatment.
However Mrs Brackenbury said she feels her family and husband were “let down” by medical staff at the Cambridge hospital.
The 64-year-old said: “We as a family were let down. Certainly he was let down. I feel like my husband slipped through the net all the way through.”
A spokesman for the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We will be considering very carefully the comments made by the coroner and responding in due course.
“We would like to reassure Mr Brackenbury’s family we will continue to make improvements to prevent this from happening again.”
The keen Arsenal fan and good cook started suffering bad headaches in November 2016 after having a shingles vaccination jab.
He was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in King’s Lynn, where he was diagnosed with viral meningitis.
However once back at home, the grandfather started to deteriorate and he was taken to the West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds, where he suffered a life-threatening haemorrhage on November 29 and was transferred to Addenbrooke’s.
Mr Brackenbury was due to undergo brain surgery on December 1 but his operation was cancelled as doctors mistakenly believed he suffered a haemorrhage at the QEH, weeks before being admitted to Addenbrooke’s.
Dr Yogish Joshi, consultant neuro-radiologist at Addenbrooke’s, told an earlier inquest that the highest risk of a further bleed is within 24 hours of a haemorrhage. He said the risk “gradually diminishes after that” and if multiple patients need an operation they try to prioritise patients at greatest risk.
Mr Brackenbury died on December 2.
“We went from Bury St Edmunds under a blue light with the promise he would be operated on,” said Mrs Brackenbury. “We imagined the next day or within 24 hours.
“To our surprise we got there and he was in bed and was on a drip and they had made him comfortable. But we couldn’t seem to get anybody to say when he would he actually be operated on and this went for two days. We just didn’t get any answers.”
She added: “I personally feel guilty. The last thing I remember saying to him when he left the morning he had the bleed, he said: ‘I don’t want to go to hospital’ and I went: ‘John, they will look after you. I can’t look after you.’ And they let him down.”
Dr Joshi also told the coroner at the inquest in October that it is likely Mr Brackenbury would have survived if he’d had the operation.
His son Julian said hearing that was “crushing” and said clinicians lacked communication and were “poorly organised”.
“Dad was a very strong person mentally,” said the 36-year-old. “He made a miraculous recovery from his haemorrhage so he had every chance, had he had the operation, to have a fighting chance of having a good quality of life moving forwards.
“But I think we all feel that he was never given that opportunity. I think we might have accepted, if he had the operation, and then he deteriorated and died after that.
“It is the fact that he wasn’t given the chance of life, he was deprived of it and I think that is the biggest scandal out of this whole thing.”
Mrs Brackenbury said she felt her husband was “dehumanised” during his short time at the hospital and criticised them for taking her husband into their care. She said: “This should not happen, not in this day and age. You shouldn’t accept a patient into your hospital if you can’t operate on them. They should never had accepted him in the first place.”
She said the hardest thing about her husband’s death was not being able to say goodbye.
‘He was a good husband’
Mr and Mrs Brackenbury had only moved into their apartment at East Hall months before his death.
The father of three, who was a keen reader and wine fan, had been on holiday in 2016 with his two sons to celebrate his 70th year.
He would have celebrated his 40th wedding anniversary in 2017.
Mrs Brackenbury said: “We were only here three or four months. We had only just moved in. He was going to take it a little bit easier. I was going to persuade him to have more holidays.
“Whether he would have, I don’t know. I am not sure he would have.”
On her husband she added: “He was good fun. We used to enjoy holidays and going out to eat. He was very generous. He was a good husband. And he adored his children.”
His son Julian said: “He was the head of our family.
“He was a father of the family and quite a dominating character in all of our lives. He was very sharp.”