Woman who lost full voice strength after surgery settles action

Breach of duty admitted in relation to operation at Bon Secours Hospital, Galway

Abigail Barnett Hunt told the court the change in her voice had taken her career away. Photograph: Collins Courts

Abigail Barnett Hunt told the court the change in her voice had taken her career away. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

A woman who lost the full strength of her voice after an operation on her vocal cords has settled her High Court action on undisclosed terms.

Abigail Barnett Hunt (40), a mother of three from Ballykeeran Big, Athlone, Co Westmeath, now living in Dublin, has sued Peter Gormley, a head and neck surgeon, and the Bon Secours Hospital, Galway as a result of an operation carried out by Mr Gormley at the hospital on May 9th, 2016 to remove polyps on her vocal cords.

It was claimed Ms Barnett Hunt suffered injury to her vocal cords and loss of tissue leading to substantial impairment of her voice, that scarring has caused loss of tissue and loss of vocal cord pliability, and she has been left with a breathy and hoarse voice.

The court heard a breach of duty had been admitted in relation to the operation.

On the second day of the case on Thursday, Denis McCullough SC, for the plaintiff, told Mr Justice Kevin Cross the case had been settled and could be struck out. The judge said he was glad to hear that.

Bedtime story

In her evidence on the opening day, Ms Barnett Hunt broke down in tears when saying she cannot shout out if there is a danger to her children and her voice cuts out when she attempts to read them a bedtime story.

She now has a low hoarse voice which people comment on all the time, she said.

“I don’t sound like me. My life has changed in ways I never dreamed of.”

“It has changed my identity. This is not my voice. My voice is my identity. It took my career away, it has left me on high alert around dangers for my children.”

She said she was heartbroken when she was not able to return to her primary school teaching job since the operation four years ago and had to take early retirement two years ago.

“I loved teaching, particularly the infant classes. I have been teaching since I was 22 years old. It wasn’t a job to me, it was an absolute privilege.”

When she signed the consent form before her vocal cord surgery four years ago, the surgeon “turned to my husband and said ‘everyman’s dream, the quiet wife’”, she said.

Asked about future surgeries, Ms Barnett Hunt said she will do “whatever it takes” to get “my voice and my life back”.

In opening the case, Mr McCullough said the lesions on his client’s vocal cords were found to be benign. Her vocal cords are unable to meet in the middle to give a natural resonance a voice requires and she is unable to get her vocal cords together to get adequate sound, he said.