Kamloops doctor not responsible for rare spinal condition, judge rules

A Kamloops doctor was not slow to diagnose a woman's rare spinal condition that's caused her partial paralysis in her arms and legs, a B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled.

Leonora Forde, 53, sued Dr. Majid Faridi, a neurosurgeon, as well as Interior Health and Royal Inland Hospital, claiming the passage of months between initial symptoms and eventual diagnosis cost her the full use of her arms and legs.

The woman alleged Faridi failed to ensure tests required to diagnose her rare condition were conducted in a timely manner. As well, RIH failed because it did not have in place systems that offered these kinds of tests.

Forde was diagnosed in November 2002 with anteriovenous fistula, a condition that sees veins in her skull close to the spinal cord become congested, slowing the flow of blood. The condition, if untreated, causes an escalating loss of spinal function.

In this case, Forde contends that by the time the diagnosis of an AV fistula was made, her initial symptoms had evolved into her present injuries, injuries which could not be reversed even with extensive surgery.

The diagnosis of Forde's spinal condition was not made until Nov. 15, 2002, almost five months after the first test was ordered. The woman did not undergo any tests for the 3 months after she reported symptoms to her doctor and was referred to Faridi.

Initially, the woman reported numbness in her toes that doctors thought was the result of a compressed disc in her back. Forde's problems with numbness and tingling continued and worsened, spreading up her legs and into her arms. She also lost control of her bladder.

Diagnostic tests were eventually ordered, but the requested CT scans were delayed because of backlogs and staff shortages. As well, the machine was unavailable for a period in August 2002 as it was being upgraded.

In late August 2002, the woman was sent for an MRI instead. Her first MRI scan was not done until Oct. 22, while a second one was performed in early November 2002.

Shortly after the tests, she was referred to a specialist in Vancouver, who diagnosed the spinal problems and planned a surgery.

The condition was repaired in April 2003. Unfortunately, the woman did not recover as well as doctors hoped, and she remains dependent on a wheelchair.

Justice Janet Sinclair-Prowse ruled Forde's case is tragic but did not result from negligence on the part of the doctor or the hospital.

"Unfortunately, Mrs. Forde had a very uncommon injury with a very rare presentation of symptoms. Given all of these findings, the evidence does not prove that Dr. Faridi breached his duty of care and, in particular, that he failed to follow through and ensure that the investigation of Mrs. Forde's spinal cord was completed in a timely fashion," the judge ruled.

It's not known if the woman will appeal the judge's decision.

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