Published: 08:00, 24 May 2021
| Updated: 09:06, 24 May 2021
A 61-year-old woman who has battled breast cancer was forced to delay vital reconstruction surgery after breaking her elbow on a popular walkway.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017 and had been due to self-isolate the following day before having the surgery when the incident happened in October. She had left the Mind charity shop and was heading to Specsavers.
However, since then, the shopping centre has changed hands and is now run by Murray Commercial Limited on behalf of Duc Khai London Limited.
It took over from Savills who had been running it on behalf of previous owners Catalyst Capital.
Mrs Harper, who is trying to claim compensation and had already had reconstruction surgery delayed last March due to the coronavirus pandemic, shared her experience on social media. She says 20 other people have contacted her to say they have had similar falls there.
She says it was raining when she fell but she is unsure if she slipped on water that had come out of the drain.
She said: “The reconstruction surgery was due to be done again two weeks after this fall and I ended up having surgery on my arm instead.
“So I still have not had it done because my arm is still not good enough, really.
“I have got to have good upper-body strength because it is quite big surgery and there will be a big recovery period afterwards.
“Also I don’t know, mentally, how I'll cope because it has been a traumatic period, really. I wasn’t counting on having such a bad break.
"I was preparing for this major surgery that had already been cancelled once. I was getting myself completely psyched up for self-isolating for two weeks.
"This was a big surgery I was going to have. I was trying to get myself, mentally, strong.
"Then I found myself in hospital having different surgery and, obviously, my reconstruction surgery was cancelled. I still can’t have it done because I can’t use my arm properly.
"When you get out of bed, you need your upper-body strength and I haven’t got it still.
"I can’t do my pilates classes because I can’t lean on my arm, either."
Mrs Harper, who is retired, had to be helped off the ground after the fall which also left her foot badly bruised.
The ambulance service was called, although she says they advised her either to get a taxi or the bus to hospital.
On the fall itself, she added: "It was extremely painful. The operation wasn’t great and it took me a really long time to get over that.
"I think I was in Tunbridge Wells Hospital for five days. I had to wait quite a long time for my surgery because of Covid.
"It was just horrible."
Matt Boughton (Con), a Tonbridge and Malling councillor, admits the issue needs to be resolved.
“Water on the floor in Angel Walk is a hazard for everyone and there must be changes to prevent any more accidents here,” he said.
“I’ve been working with Murray Commercial, and I'm pleased it has made the area tidier than it was previously since it took on management of Angel Walk.
“However, this problem must be resolved and I look forward to hearing how it will do this.”
Mrs Harper said: “It is quite obvious, from speaking to lots of people now, that there was an issue.
“That is why they have put down anti-slip strips through the walkway. But on the outer bit, they haven’t.
“It is very dangerous. One of the witnesses from my accident has, within the last few weeks, slipped himself when he came out of the Mind shop.
"It has been a traumatic period....."
"He was helping to load a van and he went over. It is just crazy.
“I suppose, you could say I was lucky. I wasn’t, really, because I now have a deformed arm where I broke my elbow so badly.
“But somebody will end up falling so badly that it could be fatal.
“I went down so hard.
“I have had two people say to me they thought they fell because of the shoes they had on their feet but, no, quite obviously, it is a serious issue because so many people have come forward.”
Mrs Harper also thanked the staff at Mind who helped her after he fall.
James Bacon, a director of Murray Commercial Limited, who took over management of the site in November, says he had been unaware of Mrs Harper's fall and said: “The most important thing for me is to maintain a clean and safe centre.”
Mr Bacon says they have also worked to improve pest control and get rid of pigeon droppings.
He added: “The centre needs to appeal to customers, tenants and prospective tenants alike.”
Previous owners Catalyst Capital were approached for comment but would only confirm that they sold ownership of the shopping centre to Croydon-based Duc Khai London Limited on November 5.