Footballer Colin Hendry today described his wife as “beautiful inside and out” as an inquest heard botched plastic surgery left her “sitting on a time bomb”.
Mr Hendry, 45, the former captain of Scotland who also played for Rangers and Blackburn Rovers, described his late wife as he relived her agonising seven-year battle with illness after disastrous liposuction surgery in 2002.
The couple, who lived in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, had been together for 25 years and had four children, Rheagan, Kyle, Calum and Niamh, Bolton Coroner’s Court heard.
But on April 10, 2002 she was punctured in the bowel nine times during “routine” liposuction surgery performed by Gustaf Aniansson, at the private Broughton Park Hospital near Preston.
It left Mrs Hendry with terrible injuries to her stomach area, the court heard.
Her abdominal wall “died” and left a gaping open wound which had to be covered with a surgical mesh and required constant dressing.
The punctures to her abdomen started off a “chain of events” in which Mrs Hendry underwent a series of operations to correct the damage - but she never fully recovered and died, aged 43, in July 2009.
Mr Hendry told the inquest that after his wife was transferred to an NHS hospital following the operation, the injuries were examined by other doctors, who were “extremely disgusted”.
“They were pretty much mad, to think that that could have happened to somebody,” he said.
One doctor tried to report Dr Aniansson to the General Medical Council to get him struck off, but he was “a step in front”, Mr Hendry said, and voluntarily removed himself from the British medical register in 2003.
Dr Aniansson, who is believed to be still practising abroad, had been notified of the hearing, coroner Jennifer Leeming told the inquest, but was out of the country so she had no powers to order him to attend.
Instead the coroner read out a short written statement from him.
Dr Aniansson said: “Following the procedure I was satisfied the surgery had proceeded uneventfully.”
But Mrs Hendry began to deteriorate later that day and was transferred to the Royal Preston Hospital.
Peter Bunting, consultant anaesthetist at the hospital, told the court Mrs Hendry was taken straight to its high dependency unit.
Medics found that the cavity created during the liposuction was contaminated with the contents of her bowel.
He said the perforations in her bowel were a “direct consequence” of the plastic surgery.
“Her liver was also involved and the first time I met Colin Hendry was to tell him there was a 90% chance that his wife would not survive,” Dr Bunting said.
Mrs Hendry spent two months in intensive care at the Royal Preston before going home.
Mr Hendry said: “To look at Denise, even when ill, she was beautiful.
“She did not let anybody really realise what was going on.”
Finally Mrs Hendry underwent another operation, lasting 16 hours, at the Salford Royal Hospital on April 22, 2009.
Professor Gordon Carlson, lead surgeon at the National Intestinal Failure Unit, based at Salford Royal Hospital, lead a team of doctors through the “enormously complex” operation to preserve Mrs Hendry’s remaining bowel tissue, of which only a small part was left, and begin the first stage of reconstruction of her bowel wall.
He said this was “extraordinary, technical, demanding, high-risk surgery” but added that the unit at Salford was world-leading and “wrote the book” on this sort of procedure.
He added: “Anyone in that position contemplating further surgery after goodness knows how many operations up to that point would only put themselves in harm’s way if their life was almost unbearable.
“She had a very poor quality of life and both Denise and Colin were struggling to do the best they could to get through with great fortitude. She was remarkable.”
Mrs Hendry was being fed by a line into her chest, which led to a “considerable risk” of a potentially fatal blood infection, so having an operation, although carrying its own dangers, was the option taken, the inquest heard.
“She was potentially sitting on a time bomb,” Prof Carlson said. “It was a question of a balance of risk.”
Medics were at first delighted with the surgery results but suddenly the patient began to deteriorate, the professor said.
On May 6, 2009 Mr Hendry was given the news that his wife was again in a serious condition: she needed surgery to relieve the pressure that had built up on her brain.
Despite more neurosurgery, doctors eventually told Mr Hendry there was no more hope for her survival and she died at Salford Royal Hospital on July 10, 2009.
The inquest continues.