Nontobeko Shongwe, a 21-year-old woman from Mpumalanga, South Africa, has filed a £2 million lawsuit against medical professionals after waking up from knee surgery to discover that one of her legs had been amputated.
Shongwe underwent the leg surgery with the usual pre-operation nervousness, unaware of the ordeal that awaited her. As she regained consciousness, she was horrified to find her leg missing.
The journey began when Shongwe experienced pain in her left knee, leading to an X-ray and subsequent biopsy. The tests revealed that she had synovial sarcoma, a form of cancer that affects soft tissues like muscles or ligaments. It is commonly found in the arms, legs, or feet, often near joints such as the wrist or ankle.
She was referred to multiple hospitals until she spent nine days in Steve Biko Hospital in June of last year for further testing. In November, she returned to the hospital for a check-up and was informed that surgery was necessary. Little did she know that this would mark the beginning of her horrific ordeal, told the mirror.
“I couldn’t understand how I went there to have my knee fixed and woke up with no leg,” Shongwe said. “I asked the nurses what happened and requested to speak with my doctor, but they informed me that he wasn’t available.”
The situation worsened as she remained in the hospital. Shongwe refused to leave until she had a chance to speak with the surgeon who operated on her. However, the nurses became unhelpful and ignored her requests for pain medication, causing her distress for hours.
“It’s something I never thought would happen to me,” Shongwe expressed. “I’m angry that I have lost my leg, “Shongwe claims that the doctor eventually admitted to his mistake, confessing that he accidentally nicked one of the main veins supplying blood to her legs when they met a week later. He explained that he had to amputate the leg to save her life due to excessive bleeding.
However, when her family requested a meeting with the doctor and hospital management on the same day, the surgeon changed his story, omitting any mention of nicking the vein and stating that he was forced to amputate due to profuse bleeding. Shongwe believes that the doctor was negligent and that the surgery was botched.
Now, she is suing the Gauteng Department of Health for £2 million in damages. Additionally, Shongwe wanted her amputated leg returned to her for cultural reasons, but the hospital denied her request, citing their standard procedure of not returning limbs.
Following the traumatic surgery, Shongwe’s life has drastically changed, leaving her feeling helpless. She now relies on her mother and sisters for bathing and getting dressed, and her relationship with her boyfriend has been affected. She faces scrutiny and insensitive comments from people when she goes out, feeling vulnerable in public without the ability to run if needed.
While Shongwe has received a prosthetic leg from Rob Ferreira Hospital, adjusting to it has been challenging. The ongoing legal case will take time to reach a conclusion. Despite everything she has endured, Shongwe remains determined to pursue her aspiration of becoming an auditor.
“The prosthetic leg is difficult to get used to,” she explained. “It shifts when I sit, and it doesn’t feel like my own leg. At the end of the day, I still have one leg, and nothing can change that. The compensation won’t bring my leg back, but this can’t be the end of everything.”