'We're terrified that our dad will die as he waits for corrective NHS surgery at a Birmingham trust'

Sixty-eight year-old dad Danny Whitehouse, of Rowley Regis, Sandwell, was rushed to hospital for an emergency, life-saving operation following surgery to remove pre-cancerous growths
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The family of a father-of-three are "terrified he will die" while waiting for an operation after enduring what they believe to be a catalogue of NHS issues.

Danny Whitehouse’s post-operative stitches burst open – resulting in his intestines protruding through his stomach – shortly after he was discharged from Solihull Hospital on 28 December 2022 following surgery to remove pre-cancerous growths.

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The 68-year-old, of Rowley Regis, Sandwell, was rushed to hospital for an emergency, life-saving operation and was placed in critical care for several days. However, 14 months later, the self-employed gardener is still waiting for corrective surgery – despite being malnourished, constantly in and out of hospital due to infections, and suffering with severe depression.

Speaking from his hospital bed, Danny said: “I want this operation as soon as possible. The entire situation is really getting me down and I’ve been asking for anti-depressants as a result. I’m in limbo, I’m stuck, I don’t know what’s going to happen to my life.”

While expressing sorrow at hearing about the concerns raised by Danny and his family and explaining that further treatment is being planned for him with docotors, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust said it could not comment further due to pending legal action.

His partner of 25 years, Tina Groves, said: “Our whole life as a family has been devastated by what has happened. Danny was full of life before the operations – he’d see his friends, we’d go on holidays, he worked as a gardener, which he loved. He was a strong man and now he’s simply skin and bones with an open wound and a fistula, barely living.

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“I have worked for the NHS for 35 years and I did so all through Covid. I love my job and I love the NHS – my dad died in 2020 and despite the restrictions, I was allowed to hold his hand while he passed away; they were wonderful. But what I’ve seen with Danny is disgusting. It’s total neglect. He has been left a shell of a man that doesn’t want to be here anymore and that breaks my heart.”

Imogen Groves, Danny’s 25-year-old daughter, added: “My father has always been the strongest man I know – he has been dealt a tough hand in life. He was left to raise his son alone after his first wife fell seriously ill. Despite hardships, he was always positive and always put his family first. I’ve seen him became a shell and I’m watching him wither. He tries to be strong but he’s obviously given up. He’s begging for help but nobody is listening.”

Danny – who has Lynch syndrome, an inherited condition that causes an increased risk of bowel cancer – had surgery to remove a tumour in his bowel on 13 September 2021 at Solihull Hospital. During what was meant to be a keyhole procedure, medical professionals discovered that the tumour was attached to his liver and reportedly cut through a vein, leading to a prolonged and complicated surgery lasting around 10 hours.

Danny WhitehouseDanny Whitehouse
Danny Whitehouse

Following the operation, Danny was blue lighted to Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham for critical care, where he underwent an ileostomy. However, further complications arose when it was revealed that three polyps, left behind during the initial surgery, were pre-cancerous.

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An operation to remove the additional growths and reverse the ileostomy took place at Solihull Hospital on 19 December 2022. Danny – who also has a son, Daniel Whitehouse, 39, and stepdaughter, Hayley Beste, 41 – was discharged nine days later despite his family reporting signs of wound dehiscence and fluid loss.

Within 45 minutes of his return home, his suture line split and the entire contents of his stomach fell onto his lap. Danny was rushed to Russells Hall Hospital, in Dudley, by ambulance, where he had an emergency operation and a surgical wash out due to an infection and multiple perforations.

Tina, 63, said: “When I went to see him after his second operation at Solihull Hospital, Danny was delirious and confused. The nurses thought he had dementia because he was seeing relatives who weren’t there and kept trying to pull his tubes out. No one believed us when we said this was unusual behaviour – they brushed us off, thinking he was just a senile old man.

“His son, my stepson, brought Danny home after he was discharged. As soon as I saw him, I thought he didn’t look right, and within 45 minutes, we heard an almighty rumble and everything fell onto his lap. It was horrendous. The surgical team had to repair him the best they could. Danny was left with a fistula below his breastbone and a temporary stoma. He was in critical care for several days.”

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Since the emergency operation, Danny is constantly in and out of hospital due to infections and has a PEG feeding tube as he is unable to absorb nutrients from food. He is waiting for corrective surgery at Solihull Hospital to repair his post-operative wound and fistula.

Tina said: “The emergency operation was only a temporary fix – he needs corrective surgery; he won’t get better without it. But they’ve left it too long and now he’s too weak due to being malnourished. It may not be done this year but with the way he is, I don’t think he will survive.

“He’s constantly in hospital. He’s currently there and it’s his second admittance in two weeks. His mental health has taken a battering and he doesn’t want to be here anymore – when he isn’t in hospital, he’s completely housebound.

“It has broken all of us. My eldest daughter has learning difficulties and autism, and Danny and I would share responsibility, but that’s all on me and my youngest daughter now. I asked social services for extra help last May and while it’s been approved, we’re still waiting for the funding to come through.

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“We’ve had a community alarm system fitted for Danny so he can press a button for support while I’m at work and he’s at home. I’ve had to reduce my hours at work – I was full-time, now I’m three days a week, and I’m dropping down to two days in April. I ended up collapsing at work because of the stress and was rushed to hospital.

“All we want is our Danny back. He’s on death row while waiting for this surgery, but no one seems to care.”

Imogen added: “I was also diagnosed with Lynch syndrome a couple of years ago and having seen how my father has been neglected and butchered, I am terrified for my own future.

What has the NHS said about Mr Whitehouse's care?

A spokesperson for University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are very sorry to hear about the concerns raised by Mr Whitehouse and his family. It would not be appropriate for us to comment on the claims being made regarding his previous surgery, due to pending legal proceedings.

"However, we look forward to scheduling Mr Whitehouse’s further surgery, based on clinical advice from his doctors.”

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