A footballer who lost a leg after doctors failed to diagnose his cancer will finally have his day in court after he decided to sue the health board for negligence. YL speaks to him about how these tragic events have changed his life
At one time Ewen Moir would have described himself as an active and spontaneous young man who was confident and loved life.
Now he is a completely different person who battles daily bouts of depression, is self-conscious about his body to the point that even a trip to the supermarket can prove upsetting, and spends most of his time inside.
It was a series of tragic events that started in May, 2008 that have led to this change in Ewen, a 36-year-old father-of-three from Garve.
It was during his debut in goal for Dyno-Rod in the Inverness Amateur Football League when he turned quickly and broke the tibia and fibula in his left leg.
He had to make repeated visits to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness because the fractures would not heal. Screws were removed from his leg to try to help.
However, by May, 2009 – 12 months after his injury – Ewen was still complaining of pain in his left knee and consultants carried out further investigations. His leg was X-rayed and an abnormal lump was found.
He was diagnosed with bone cancer and had chemotherapy – but this was not enough to save his leg. Despite the amputation, the cancer spread to his lungs and he had to undergo two more serious operations in 2010.
He later lodged a complaint against NHS Highland with the Scottish public services ombudsman. The ombudsman, Jim Martin, said doctors had failed to check whether an “underlying condition” was causing the knee pain.
His most damning finding was that “limb-salvage surgery” could have been attempted if the tumour had been discovered earlier.
NHS Highland chief executive Elaine Mead said at the time that while they could not discuss the details of any individual case, they “accepted totally the findings and have written to the patient to apologise and express regret for any harm or distress caused to the patient and family by NHS Highland”.
A spokeswoman for NHS Highland said this week that there is “nothing more that they can say at this time”.
Ewen decided to sue NHS Highland for negligence and it is a battle that still rages on more than three years later. The most recent development is that a court date has been set – for 2017 – which means another two years of waiting for Ewen and his family.
IT HAS MADE ME A WORSE PERSON
But it is a date that will mean more than just a possible financial gain for Ewen. It could mean a chance for him to move on with his life.
“Once things come to a close I think I’ll be able to move on.
“I think if it was all over and done I wouldn’t need to keep talking to specialists and doctors and all these other people and keep telling them the whole story all over again.
“This whole experience has definitely made me a worse person, not a better person, anyway.”
Any money that could result from the law suit will be used to help fund an innovative operation that might be available to Ewen. The operation would take place in Australia and would involve fusing metal to the bone and a prosthetic leg attached to the metal. The whole procedure would cost £100,000.
Ewen said he has been told that following the operation he could be able to walk again, even run, but the former keen footballer is not getting his hopes up just yet.
He said: “Before I lost the leg, I was quite an optimistic person and now I can’t be optimistic about anything. I’ve been so let down in the past it’s hard to be optimistic now.
“There are no words to describe how happy and elated I would feel if I got this procedure and could walk again. It wouldn’t just affect me, it would be everyone around me.”
Until then, though, Ewen will have to continue to live his life the way he has been since his operation – using crutches to get around.
He told me that while it has been something that he has had to get used to, he still finds it a struggle, both physically and mentally – even something which might seem insignificant to you or I, such as tripping over a carpet, can have a serious knock-on effect on Ewen’s mental health.
“If I trip or fall or even bump into something, I can be depressed for weeks and weeks. I’m still quite angry about everything that went on. I still get really annoyed with the fact that I’ve got one leg and two crutches now. It still affects me a lot. I didn’t think it would, but it does,” he said.
“My 10-year-old son is getting into football and he’s wanting me to play with him. He gets quite upset that I can’t, he understands why I can’t but that really upsets me. My 12-year-old boy is getting into running and I would love to go out with him. Obviously he knows I can’t. It’s just little things like that.”
Although Ewen does try to hold onto his old life, he knows that things have changed and there is only so much he can do. One of the biggest challenges for him has been the fact that he had to give up his job. Having worked since he was young, being unemployed is a big challenge for the 36-year-old.
“Some people might think I’m being stupid because I’ve only lost a leg but I’ve not only just lost a leg, I lost my independence,” he said.
“It’s a complete lifestyle change. I’ve always worked, since I was young, and since this has happened I’ve not done any work. I still try to do stuff in the garden, weeding, or I will sit down and hoover so that I can still feel like I am contributing and help my partner Wendy.
“I’m not providing for my family and that is the thing I’m finding hardest to deal with.
“I’ll go with Wendy to the shops and I don’t mind doing it, but if we go to Tesco and it’s too busy, I freak out and say I’m going to go sit in the car because people stare. I understand that and it’s ok to look because it is quite weird seeing someone walking about with one leg. I don’t mind when the kids do it but when the adults do it, that bothers me. They just sit and stare and I think how dare you. But I shouldn’t get like that.”
Being self-conscious about his body is one of the many new emotional issues Ewen finds himself thinking about these days. They are feelings that are pretty foreign to him, having been a fairly confident young man previously. He said it hit him immediately when he first left hospital following his operation.
He described how it was summer and everyone was out in shorts and t-shirts and admits having a cry to himself that he wouldn’t be able to wear shorts when it was hot or go out and enjoy the summer.
I HATE MY BODY
Even now, years later, seeing other people doing activities he used to enjoy affects him greatly.
He said: “It still bothers me seeing people going out running because I was quite into that. Sometimes my friend will take me to watch the football team that I used to play for and even he can see that it bothers me watching it.
“He does it so I can get out and see some of the guys I knew before because I really don’t meet anybody new. I’m not confident anymore. I used to be pretty confident and quite happy within myself but now I just hate myself, I hate my body.
“I’m definitely not the same person that I was. I am a lot more negative and sad, I’m angry a lot, I never used to get that angry, it’s a side of me that my partner’s not seen.
“I’m not angry with people around me but I’m angry with myself if I fall or bump into something or I see Wendy struggling with a job that I used to do. That really winds me up because I know fine that she shouldn’t be doing all this work. But obviously she has to given the position we are in.
“I just have to deal with it my own way. Sometimes I’ll sit in a room and tell myself to get a grip or find a different room that no one else is in. I know that I depress my family as well. If I am depressed then they feel it too. Obviously, they see me unhappy and feel sad for me and I don’t want them to feel like that.
“Everything has changed now. Before I broke the leg, I was doing really well at my job, I was getting promoted. I’ve actually spoken to my old supervisor and he said I’d probably be manager now if this hadn’t happened. I was trying to qualify for my HGV ticket as well. Things were going really good for us back then, nice steady job, the kids and Wendy were happy, it was going well until this happened and put everything upside down. It turned me into someone I don’t like and it’s hard living with yourself if you don’t like yourself. I don’t feel like that all the time but it has definitely changed me for the worst.”
Now it is just a waiting game for Ewen until his court date finally arrives. He has been warned by his solicitors that he may have to give evidence on the day, a task Ewen is not looking forward to. He said he finds it difficult speaking to people about what has happened to him but added that he does it because he has to.
“Maybe one day I’ll tell someone in 10, 20 years’ time and it might just click and I will be back to being myself,” he said.
“Hopefully I can get this procedure in Australia. If that came off I think I could get back to the person I was, but I just keep getting doors slammed in my face.
“At the moment, I don’t think I could ever be the person that I was, but I hope so. I try to remain positive about that.”