By James Somper
A former boxing champ claims he was turned away from A&E three times in ten days before doctors discovered a near-fatal brain aneurysm missed by a routine scan and ruptured by a knockout blow.
Darren McDermott, from Dudley, West Mids, has now received a significant undisclosed payout after a private screening company allegedly failed to spot a potentially fatal brain aneurysm during an annual boxing medical eight years ago.
Five months later, the aneurysm ruptured when 39-year-old Darren, known as The Black Country Body Snatcher was punched in the head during a sparring match against two-time world light-heavyweight champion Nathan Cleverly at a boxing gym in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, in August 2010.
But heartbroken wife Claire, 37, claims her husband was turned away from A&E three times in the ten days after he suffered the blow to the head after doctors allegedly missed the bleed on his brain and failed to provide the scans he needed.
The couple claims the initially missed aneurysm and further hospital delays mean dad-of-two Darren was left a completely different person suffering memory loss, depression and a complete change in character.
Dad-of-three Darren said: As I was punched, it felt like someone was twisting a screwdriver around inside my head.
Something popped in my eye “ I thought I had blood running down my eye but when I looked in the mirror I could see there was nothing there.
When I woke up in the hospital and was told the aneurysm had ruptured and I had a bleed on the brain, my first question was will I be able to box again?
The nurse said I don’t think so hearing that was like having my arms and legs cut off.
I was destroyed, it felt like the end of the world. I came home and lost my driving licence, lost my boxing licence, I just didn’t know what to do with myself.
I was in a bad place. For me to retire because I thought I was too old or not good enough would have been acceptable.
But for somebody to just take it away from me was just heartbreaking.
Darren had been given the all clear and relicensed to box following his British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC) mandated annual medical MRI scan in March 2010.
His trainer Dean Powell took him to Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil the day of the knockout punch on August 26 but Darren claims he was kept under observation overnight but discharged without treatment the following morning.
But eight days later on September 3, Darren was sleeping all the time and repeating himself so Claire rushed him to their local hospital Russell Hall in Dudley.
Claire claims doctors diagnosed Darren with a concussion and sent him home.
But still in pain and vomiting violently, Darren returned to hospital later the same night where Claire insisted her husband needed a brain scan.
Darren was allegedly told he was not an emergency and would have to wait overnight “ but the following morning was given the crushing news he had bleeding on the brain.
He was rushed to Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital and underwent a five hour operation to stop the bleed on his brain and needed 80 staples in his skull and it was only after the surgery the ruptured aneurysm was discovered.
In total, Darren and Claire claim doctors failed to notice the aneurysm for one week and two days.
They are also certain the aneurysm should have been spotted in the routine boxing scan five months previously, before it reached a potentially-fatal stage.
Determined to hold someone accountable, Darren and his wife instructed medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate whether a pre-existing aneurysm should have been found during routine his BBBoC examination.
InHealth Ltd was the company tasked by the BBBoC to run the process of finding and checking all professional boxers MRI scans for re-licensing purposes.
In March, the company agreed to pay the couple an undisclosed settlement after admitting its Professional Boxers MRI protocol did not include additional scans which should have been carried out.
InHealth Ltd also admitted that had the protocol included these additional scans, Darren’s aneurysm would likely have been detected, his licence revoked and his brain injury avoided.
Darren said: If they’d have seen an aneurysm they would have revoked my licence.
It would have meant I wouldn’t have been allowed to spar or box which would mean I wouldn’t have an 80 staple scar across my head and had the operation.
Eight years on, Claire said her husband is a completely different person.
The garden business owner said: It’s totally changed Darrens life and his character.
He always used to be the first to get up and do karaoke. Now, he hates being centre of attention. It’s like he’s a different person.
He’ll drive down the road to the gym and forget he’s left the car outside. He has forgotten to pick my son up from school three times.
The worst thing really is that his confidence has suffered. He’s got very bad memory loss and his appearance has changed.
People need to realise what has happened to him. He looks physically fine now but people don’t understand the impact it has had.
It’s been heartbreaking. I didn’t know if our marriage would survive. He’s always been the strong but now I do everything. I’ve been very lucky though because I’ve had a lot of support from people.
A spokesman for Cwm Taf Health Board, which runs the Prince Charles Hospital, said they could not comment on individual cases.