A COWES man has been awarded £1.5m in compensation after a misdiagnosis at St Mary's Hospital left him permanently disabled.

Matthew Smith, 53, was left with a devastating spinal injury and unable to work or even walk around his house without constant pain, after his treatment at the hospital was delayed by three days.

In January 2013 Mr Smith, a former lecturer, slipped on ice and twisted his back. A few days later he found he was unable to walk.

"I crawled back to bed, but it felt like I had spiders running up and down my legs," he said.

After he lost feeling and movement in his left foot, he arranged for a taxi to take him to the hospital. A few hours later, the doctor sent him home with the muscle relaxant diazepam.

Overnight Mr Smith struggled to pass urine and felt numb from the waist down.

The next day, Mr Smith's GP visited for a prearranged visit, and suspected he was suffering from cauda equina syndrome (CES). However, Mr Smith said when he returned to the hospital it was not until the following day that he was given an MRI scan, confirming the diagnosis.

Mr Smith was not transferred to the spinal unit at Southampton General Hospital at 11pm that night, and surgeons did not operate until the following day. By this point it was too late to prevent permanent damage.

Now, Mr Smith — a former triathlete — spends much of his time in a horizontal wheelchair and must spend most of his time on his back, or risk being in complete agony.

He said: "The first doctor I can excuse, he did not know what he was dealing with.

"I could see he was concerned but he still sent me home. But the window of recovery was still there. If the second doctor had acted on the GP's advice quicker, I would have been okay."

Angharad Hughes, a spinal injury specialist at JMW Solicitors, who handled Matthew’s case against the two hospitals, said: "In Matthew’s case there was a clear lack of awareness of the signs of cauda equina syndrome by hospital doctors and the need to arrange an urgent MRI scan and surgery. This meant he waited three days before he had surgery and by the time it was done it was too late to prevent permanent damage.

"I am pleased to have secured this compensation that will enable Matthew to cope better with his disabilities and give him some financial security and access to the care and equipment he requires."

Mr Smith now campaigns for greater disability access across the Isle of Wight, and in 2015  launched a national campaign calling on the government to tackle the discrimination experienced by those living and working on UK islands.

A keen swimmer, in 2014 he completed the Sandown to Shanklin pier-to-pier swim, raising money for the Ellen Macarthur trust.

However, he said: "I would it give all the money back, and they could take my house too, if I could get my legs back. All of it.

"I think it's important for people to challenge the NHS when they make mistakes.

"To know that I would have made a good recovery, if it had been treated as the surgical emergency, is extremely difficult to come to terms with.

"I believe mine and other recent cases brought against St Mary's has led to them making considerable investment and improvement to the A&E department.”

A spokesperson for the Isle of Wight NHS Trust said: “We’re very sorry that we did not correctly diagnose Mr Matthew Smith at the time (29th January 2013) and were not able to undertake an MRI scan at St. Mary’s. Mr Smith was transferred to Southampton General Hospital within two and a half hours and Southampton subsequently operated on Mr Smith the following day. We hope Mr Smith can now move on from this difficult experience and we wish him all the best.”