Victim had to endure 14 years of suffering

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THE DAY before her hysterectomy, Brenda Johnson sat on the hills outside Dover and cried. She was 36 and she had a six-year-old son but she had recently moved down from the north to live with her new partner, Roy, and she wanted more children.

"I sobbed my eyes out that day because I didn't believe the operation was necessary. When you are young you believe in doctors and you put your life in their hands. Now I would argue the point with anyone. I learnt a bitter lesson. I wish I had listened to my inner self."

That was in 1984. Fourteen years later, Mrs Johnson still suffers pain and discomfort as a result of the surgery performed by Rodney Ledward. For two years she could not walk and she was on painkillers for ten.

She had been told her condition was so urgent she should go private and the operation was carried out at St Saviour's Hospital in Hythe, Kent.

Afterwards she bled profusely, losing 28 pints of blood and fluid. The staff made frantic attempts to contact Mr Ledward without success.

An anaesthetist warned that she needed multiple transfusions and as her condition deteriorated in the early hours the staff called Roy, Mrs Johnson's partner, and told him to come to the hospital without delay.

"I was fading fast. When Mr Ledward turned up the next morning I had a very brutal operation in which he put in 76 stitches to try to stem the bleeding. The anaesthetist told me they had gone in like an army of Irish navvies with their boots on. They couldn't be gentle because I was dying and they didn't know where I was bleeding from."

The traumatic surgery left her permanently damaged but after another operation she refused further surgery because she was too frightened. She begged to be referred to a different gynaecologist but her GP refused, saying that it was unethical.

"When I left hospital I felt like a lump of jelly. I couldn't look after my six-year-old son. He used to bring me milk and jam butties. I was too ill to cuddle him.

"It was a massive strain on the family. I have never held a full-time job since because I never felt well enough. I have spent most of the time going to see doctors. It has cost the NHS a fortune to sort out my case".

Mrs Johnson, now of Lympne, near Ashford in Kent, sued Mr Ledward but the judge decided that she was the victim of an accident and he was not to blame.

She was originally treated for a bladder problem but has been told since that it could have been dealt with by a minor operation or physiotherapy.

She now organises a patients' support group and has received letters from former patients of Mr Ledward's from all over the country and abroad. "They are angry. They want revenge for what was done to them," she said.