Camden News
Publications by New Journal Enterprises
  Home Archive Competition Jobs Tickets Accommodation Dating Contact us
Camden New Journal - By RICHARD OSLEY
Published: 31 January 2008
Colin Ludlow, with son Edmund, has written about his ordeal
Colin Ludlow, with son Edmund, has written about his ordeal
‘I went into hospital for 10 days, but stayed for five months, contracted MRSA and nearly died’

Book reveals patient’s view of Royal Free and the ‘medical pinball’ that changed his life

THE Royal Free Hospital is bracing itself for the publication of a book by a patient whose 10-day bowel treatment turned into a five-month nightmare and a close brush with death.
Colin Ludlow, 53, will reveal the day-to-day frustration of being a patient at the Hampstead hospital in his book, Shadows in Wonderland, released next week. It tells the story of how a tumour in his bowel – initially thought to be piles – was discovered only because his wife, Anna, had been referred to the hospital with a similar complaint.
When tests revealed in 2003 that he too had serious bowel problems – a polyp was discovered – Mr Ludlow was later admitted for an operation which he expected would mean a 10-day stay.
Instead, he spent months in the Royal Free, reacting badly to drugs, contracting superbug MRSA and having a series of close calls with death.
He had six weeks in intensive care and also contracted pneumonia. At one stage, his infected lung needed to be sucked clear, and the misery continued when his gall bladder became inflamed and did not respond to drugs. All this before his 50th birthday and without mentioning the pain of seeing his testicles “swell to the size of grapefruits” during treatment.
In his book he describes the difficulties as “medical pinball”.
Mr Ludlow said: “Lightning may not strike twice in the same place, but bowel cancer, it appeared, was a different matter. The odds on both Anna and myself contracting it within the space of two years were about as likely as winning the Lottery.
He added: “The initial biopsy did not even confirm that the tumour was malignant. Anna had spent 10 days in hospital following her surgery and I expected to be home in much the same time. In the event, I stayed for five months, nearly died on several occasions, contracted MRSA, and, more than three years later, am still recovering.”
Mr Ludlow said he decided to write Shadows in Wonderland to give a patient’s perspective on treatment in a large hospital.
Mr Ludlow writes about a series of small incidents that he thinks made life more difficult than it needed to be. Among them are a bust-up with staff who clamped his car when he arrived to pick up his wife while she was having treatment for her own bowel problems.
He criticises lacklustre food menus, confusing appointment systems and delays, and the Pond Street building itself, of which he says: “The Royal Free Hospital belongs not in Hampstead with its elegant 18th-century cottages and villas but amid the soaring concrete monstrosities of East Croydon.”
Mr Ludlow, a father-of-two from Primrose Hill, said: “My experience in hospital has changed my life completely. I might have thought I would have written books about other things in my life but I’ve ended up doing this. I couldn’t ignore it.”
He added that his book was an insight into the NHS as a whole rather than a rant about the Royal Free. “I think the experience is similar at a lot of hospitals,” Mr Ludlow said. “It is more of an experience of the NHS than just the Royal Free.”
The TV scriptwriter has thanked doctors who treated him. “When you look at the care I received I can’t have complaints about the actual care,” he said.
“There are some great consultants. I’m still alive and I’m grateful for that.” He hopes the hospital’s management will take the book in good spirit and respond to some of his criticisms.
“Patients get passed from pillar to post and that is something that gets lost,” he said. “I wrote the book to show what it is like to be a patient, which is a view that maybe hospital managers don’t always see it from.”
Mr Ludlow’s troubled stay included a night when he needed a massive transfusion of 45 units of blood.
In the book, he describes the Royal Free as “a vast, expensive flagship of medicine at its most advanced; a teeming, zealously watched shrine for all that contemporary healthcare has to offer... Unfortunately for the patient, however, big is not always beautiful and teeming shrines may not make the most comfortable of dwellings.”
Mr Ludlow, who is due to read from the book at an open-to-all session at St Mark’s Church, in Primrose Hill, on Wednesday, the night before an official launch party, still has appointments at the hospital but his bowel treatment has so far been successful. His wife has had similar positive results.
Mr Ludlow said some issues had been addressed since his stay as a patient but warns in the book that “the heroic age of medicine is over”.
He writes: “In the same way that we now regard politicians, law­yers, journalists and almost any other group one cares to name with suspicion and cynicism, we no longer believe in or trust doctors in the way we did 40 years ago in the days of Dr Kildare.”
The Royal Free declined to answer specific issues raised by Mr Ludlow’s book although it is understood a copy was cleared by its lawyers before it went to print.
A spokeswoman said: “The Royal Free Hospital has not received a formal complaint from Colin Ludlow and feels it would be inappropriate to comment on extracts from his book.
“If Mr Ludlow is unhappy with the care he experienced at the Royal Free, we would ask him to contact the trust directly so we can undertake an investigation into his concerns. We are committed to providing a safe environment for all patients. It is a priority that any concerns are addressed immediately so that a high standard of care is offered at all times.”

• Shadows in ­Wonder­land: A Hospital Odyssey is published by Hammersmith Press Limited at £9.99


“One of the dishes featured regularly – particularly on ­Fridays – is the intriguingly named ‘battered cod’. Looking at the dense, tasteless, off-white lump of fish wrapped in a soggy, pale-yellow film of heavy pancake, I have repeatedly been struck by the wit of this description.”


“I have been gone for at most three minutes, but, with an alacrity that would be welcome in the x-ray department, a burly member of the hospital’s uniformed security staff, together with two silent assistants, has managed to appear from nowhere and place a parking clamp on one of the front wheels of my car.”

Comment on this article.
(You must supply your full name and email address for your comment to be published)







Theatre Music
Arts & Events Attractions