A CANCER patient who will never talk again after his tongue nerves were damaged following an operation has lost his claim of negligence against Mid Essex Hospital Trust (MEHT).

Nicholas Collyer underwent a lifesaving laryngectomy on February 27 to remove his voice box and treat his recurrent laryngeal cancer after being admitted to hospital on February 26, 2014.

Mr Collyer had been treated with radiotherapy for laryngeal cancer in 2013. But the cancer recurred and surgery became the only appropriate option.

Afterwards a valve was fitted in a further minor procedure to enable speech to be restored.

However, Mr Collyer now has almost no movement in his tongue as a result of significant and permanent damage to both the hypoglossal nerves which produce movement.

Mr Collyer has not spoken a word since the surgery and will never be able to do so again.

The almost complete lack of movement in his tongue means he finds it hard to swallow.

He communicates with mouthing, gestures and signs, and an app on his iPad.

High Court judges admitted the consequences for Mr Collyer were “catastrophic” and had a significantly adverse effect on his physical and mental wellbeing, lifestyle and relationships.

He and his former partner are no longer together. His mother who is 83 devotes her time to assisting and caring for him.

Mr Collyer also has type I diabetes which caused him to suffer renal failure resulting in a kidney transplant, donated by former partner.

He also suffers from obesity, hypertension and sleep apnoea.

He claimed the injury was caused by negligence on the part of the surgeon who carried out his laryngectomy.

But MEHT said the probable cause is pressure from retraction, inevitable in the course of the operation, on already vulnerable hypoglossal nerves.

The pre-existing vulnerability, the trust argued, arises from the effects of the previous radiotherapy and existing diabetes.

Alternatively, the damage may have been caused by external pressure on the nerves through oedema or haematoma or intubation – a standard procedure that involves passing a tube into a person’s airway – during anaesthesia or table positioning.

The court heard that doctors’ notes state Mr Collyer was saying that on March 3 he had not been able to move his tongue for two days, but that he had been able to move it post operation.

Her Honour Judge Rosalind Coe QC said the injury “remains unexplained”.

“If Mr Collyer did in fact have movement in his tongue post operatively and then not by March 1 there must be some mechanism which would have produced this near total paralysis in the intervening period of time.

“The only suggestion (not fully explored) is of post-operative oedema causing sufficient damage to create permanent palsy. There is no suggestion that this would have been negligent. It is also unheard of.

“I do not consider it to be more likely than not on the evidence that I have heard. In that sense the outcome would have been the same. Mr Collyer has suffered a devastating consequence of this surgery –albeit life-saving surgery. Like everybody else involved in this case I have real sympathy for him.

“However, on the basis of my findings the claim must be dismissed.”