A retired Black Country soldier who had his stomach removed after he was wrongly diagnosed with cancer last night said a six-figure sum awarded to him by the High Court was meaningless.
John Ford, who lives in Bloxwich, Walsall, with his wife Joan, underwent a six-and-a-half-hour operation at Walsall Manor Hospital to remove his whole stomach in October 2002 after complaining of abdominal pain.
But the following month his consultant told him there was no cancer and his biopsy had been misinterpreted by pathologist Dr David Rowlands - a locum on loan from Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust.
The biopsy actually revealed Mr Ford was suffering from a benign tumour that would have required little more than careful monitoring.
Mr Ford, a 72-year-old father-of-three, told how he contested the initial test results and told doctors he did not believe he had cancer.
"After an endoscopy, I was told my symptoms were due to a particularly aggressive form of cancer and my stomach would have to be removed," he said.
"I just didn't believe it. I felt well, I hadn't been losing weight, I still had a healthy appetite. What the doctor was telling me didn't sound right, and I told him I had doubts over the diagnosis."
In under 12 months Mr Ford, who served with the Coldstream Guards in the 1950s, lost three-and-a-half stone. He can no longer eat solid food and all his meals have to be mashed up like baby food to make them digestible.
He said: "I always loved my food, I always had an appetite, and the meals I miss most are steak and chips, or fish and chips, or roast beef with Yorkshire pudding on a Sunday.
"I eventually got a letter from Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust admitting liability, that's the only correspondence I've ever had.
"I've never had a formal apology, but they could apologise for all their worth and it wouldn't make any difference. I don't want an apology, I want my stomach back.
"I shall never go into hospital for an operation ever again, I don't want to go through all that again not even if my life depended on it."
His wife Joan, aged 68, explained how they had looked forward to a 'grand tour' of Britain in their retirement, but now her husband is afraid to leave the house in case he needs the bathroom so that dream trip will never happen.
Mrs Ford said: "The night before the operation John didn't feel right about it and he wanted to walk out of the hospital, but I told him he had to trust the doctors.
"But when he was told there was no cancer, that effectively his stomach had been removed needlessly, his face just dropped. He was absolutely devastated. He kept saying 'I should've left, I should've left'.
"As a result many of the things we looked forward to in our retirement, simple things like holidays, playing with the grandchildren, and so on, are almost impossible."
Timothy Deeming, the family's solicitor with Birmingham-based law firm Irwin Mitchell, said: "Mistakes do happen, however, the magnitude of this mistake is enormous.
"What is of particular concern is that the pathologist completely missed the main features associated with stomach cancer. This failure has led to John not only suffering unnecessary distress after the diagnosis of cancer, but further pain and permanent damage after his stomach was needlessly removed."
Last night, Royal Wolver-hampton Hospitals NHS Trust issued a statement, which read: "A formal letter of claim was sent by Mr Ford's solicitors on May 10, 2005.
"On September 29, 2005 and following full investigation it was admitted that there were failings in the reporting of Mr Ford's biopsy, which should have been reported as showing a benign tumour.
"The trust wishes to apologise and is pleased that agreement has now been reached and settlement achieved in relation to the injuries that Mr Ford suffered. We would like to offer Mr Ford and his family our best wishes for the future."