Man left badly disabled in car crash aged six has died 25 years later
THE mother of a child car crash victim – left severely disabled after being hit 25 years ago – has spoken of his courage after he died following an op at Derriford Hospital.
An inquest this week heard that Michael Crossman, 31, who was wheelchair-bound and unable to talk after being severely injured at the age of six, died after being discharged then re-admitted following the operation.
His mother, Caroline Crossman, told the hearing that she was concerned that staff had not known how to deal with her son.
The hospital admitted shortcomings with his care, apologised to the family and said that action has since been taken to support patients with learning disabilities.
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Yesterday Mrs Crossman said: "I'm still numb. It's a shame Michael had to go through it all in order for them to learn."
But she said she and her family now want to get on with their lives.
The inquest at Plymouth Coroner's Court was told how Mr Crossman died after an operation to replace a pump put inside him to feed him medication.
The inquest heard how he was discharged, only to start feeling ill and had to be readmitted.
Mrs Crossman, 54, told the hearing she was concerned that staff at Derriford Hospital had not known how to deal with her son. She said that, on one occasion, he waited from 4.15pm until midnight to see a doctor.
She said: "I was annoyed at the way Michael was treated on that Saturday. He should not have been left in his chair for that long.
"The doctors didn't know what to do with a patient like Michael and they should have known."
Mrs Crossman added that she was not told about the risks of the operation.
Kevin Marsh, Acting Chief Nurse at Derriford Hospital, admitted there were shortcomings with Michael's care.
He said: "For patients with more complex needs, it is even more important that we communicate with patients, their families and carers in a planned, timely and sensitive manner.
"We recognise that we did not do this on occasions when we were caring for Michael.
"We have met with Mr and Mrs Crossman and apologised for the shortcomings in communication and the issues that were raised around their son's care and repeat that apology now.
"We have put considerable effort into developing a service to support patients with learning disabilities.
Coroner Andrew Cox recorded a narrative verdict, saying: "Michael Crossman died principally as a consequence of injuries suffered in an accident with known complications in later surgery also contributing."
Cause of death was recorded as bronchial pneumonia, musculoskeletal and neurological consequences of a road traffic collision in 1986 and a replaced baclofen pump operation on May 20 2011 and July 8 2011.
Speaking after the inquest, Mrs Crossman said her son underwent the operation to replace the pump under local anaesthetic on May 20 last year. She said: "He came out of hospital that same day, but went back in (to Derriford) a week later because he was not feeling well. He was kept in for one-and-a-half weeks and sent home again but re-admitted after 24 hours. He died on July 11."
Outside the inquest hearing, Michael's father, Bill, 54, said he and his wife could now move on with their lives.
He said: "What has happened here today means a lot to us. We were looking for closure and we didn't want it to drag on any more."
Michael was outside his home in Deer Park Drive when he was hit by a car in 1986. He suffered severe brain damage and was in a coma for six weeks. He was later awarded a structured settlement of £11.5million by the High Court.
After the accident he communicated with people by blinking once for yes and twice for no.
But Mrs Crossman, now of Stone Barton Close, Plympton, said: He was loved by everyone who knew him. He was a proper character and would smile at anything. He was never down.
"He was also very brave. He underwent two eight-hour operations on his spine, yet even after that he was smiling."
Her husband said Michael had tried boat racing, rafting, abseiling, horse riding and belly boarding, adding: "He was a bit of an adrenaline junkie. He loved all that."
A plaque on his grave at Drake Memorial Park cemetery in Plymouth bears the inscription: "Remembered for his courage and cheeky smile."