Solicitor died following hip operation at the Conquest

Deborah Hunt, who died on her 41st birthday
Deborah Hunt, who died on her 41st birthday

A POPULAR solicitor died after contracting an “extraordinarily rapid” infection after she had hip surgery at the Conquest Hospital.

Deborah Hunt, 41, died on her birthday in April 2009, 17 days after undergoing the operation. Coroner Alan Craze recorded a narrative verdict at her inquest on Wednesday but Deborah’s dad Geoffrey hopes some lessons will be learned from his daughter’s tragic death.

Miss Hunt, of Fellows Road, was a long-time sufferer of aggressive rheumatoid arthritis and was admitted to the Conquest on March 25 2009 for a hip replacement described by consultant orthopaedic surgeon Hugh Apthorp, as “extremely complicated.” Her recuperation was hindered by the fact she was also a type two diabetic and allergic to penicillin but doctors were pleased with her progress in the days following surgery.

But in the second week of April there was some swelling and she was complaining of pain in her hip, although on the morning she died she was joking about her birthday cake, nurse Tracey Haggar told the court. However her condition quickly went downhill on the morning of April 11 and just 100 minutes after it was realised she may have septicaemia, she had died. A post mortem revealed she had died of an infection linked to cellulitis, which had caused what Guy Selmon, another one of her surgeons, called an “extraordinarily rapid decline.”

The signs of the infection were suppressed by some of the drugs she was on for her diabetes, the coroner heard, and Mr Craze was satisfied staff had carried out proper checks on Miss Hunt, who worked for the Hastings Advice and Representation Centre (HARC). He was repeatedly assured that there were no issues with staffing levels despite it being the Easter weekend, and heard that new guidelines about how antibiotics were given were in line with national best practice.

He did hear that the alarm might have been raised on the night before she died as Miss Hunt was in a lot of pain but microbiologist Dr Anne Wilson said: “I think junior doctors are quite reluctant to phone us unless they think it is very, very urgent.” She said she would have “expected” the ward staff to pick up on the infection and said: “It would have increased her chances of a good outcome but I could not guarantee it.”

Mr Craze said it was a “very tragic death” but found no evidence of any medical or surgical accident which might have put her at risk.

Speaking after the inquest, Mr Hunt, who lost his wife Janet just four weeks before the hearing finally took place, said: “I do think decisions should have been made earlier but hindsight is a wonderful thing. You just keep thinking “if only” and hopefully some lessons will be learned from her death.

“She was ill for a long time but she just got on with things, she was blessed with a tremendous humour and she knew everybody. She was such a clever girl I could see she was deteriorating but they have a lot of patients to deal with.”

Mr Hunt did question why it had taken 25 months for the inquest to come round.