2010 world vault champion Thomas Bouhail (France) publicly accused doctors of medical negligence, nearly six months after the Christmas Eve accident that may have cut short his brilliant gymnastics career.
Thomas Bouhail (France)
On Dec. 24, Bouhail suffered a broken tibia and torn knee ligaments in a fall off high bar. He held a press conference Friday afternoon, speaking publicly for the first time about the incident that nearly cost him his left leg.
"I was taken to the hospital at noon but operated only on at 9 p.m.," he said. "After that I felt pain in my left foot. But they told me that it was post-operative pain. On Sunday and Monday, I felt completely abandoned by the doctors. As much as I cried I was hurting, nobody came to help me."
Instead of his leg healing, the tissue began to die — a process known as necrosis — due to a critical lack of blood supply to the cells, he said.
"I had a Doppler scan on Tuesday, and immediately I was operated on again, twice," Bouhail said. "By Wednesday I knew my injury was very, very serious. The doctors told us they were going to try to save my leg. It almost got amputated as a result of these two days of abandonment."
Bouhail said he spent a "horrible four weeks" in the hospital, undergoing multiple surgeries to save his leg. Assisted by crutches, the 25-year-old Bouhail still is unable to walk normally today.
"I almost lost my leg," he said. "It's a miracle it was saved. I've undergone 15 operations and they've taken a lot of my muscle. Today, I still cannot lift my foot."
Bouhail's lawyer, Jean-Christophe Coubris, said the staff at hospital Bégin in Saint-Mandé was lax due to the Christmas holiday.
"The leg was not vascularized during the first 48 hours [leading to the necrosis]," Coubris said. "Examinations that should have been made were not, except for the Doppler scan. It is extremely questionable. Even though it was a Sunday and Dec. 25, it should be treated like any other day. Thomas Bouhail now wants an explanation. He's filed a case to the regional commission for conciliation and compensation of medical malpractice."
Coubris said the hearing will take place in approximately two months, when Bouhail had expected to be preparing for his second Olympic Games. A board of experts will determine if there is sufficient evidence for a lawsuit, the lawyer said.
Bouhail is France's only world champion in modern gymnastics history. At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, he tied Poland's Leszek Blanik for the high score in the vault final, but was bumped to the silver medal because of tie-breaking rules. He won vault at the 2009 and 2011 European Championships.
Bouhail said he has been in "shock" over the developments, but he's now ready to share the extent of his physical and emotional suffering.
"It's been a terrible shock," he said. "When I came back from surgery and I saw that I still had my leg, it was a relief, yes. But I felt very depressed. I had to seek help from a psychologist. Today I felt ready to talk, but the words are very difficult to get out. Because of this negligence, this is the end point of my career. Even if, deep down, there is still some hope."
Said Bouhail, "Today, I'm not training to be an Olympic champion, but trying to teach myself how to walk normally."
External Link: Thomas Bouhail Official Website | Official Facebook Page