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Hudgell Solicitors secures multi-million pound damages settlement for girl left with life-long disabilities after ‘catalogue of errors’ at birth

new born baby holding hand

A health trust has agreed a multi-million pound damages settlement for a teenage girl left with life-long injuries after a catalogue of errors during her mother’s pregnancy led to her being delivered at just 24 weeks.

The girl, now 13, was given just a 10% chance of survival and spent the first seven weeks of her life on breathing support, needing oxygen for more than 100 days.

She survived, but suffered injuries which will prevent her from ever being able to live an independent life and always in need of support and care.

A legal case, led by medical negligence specialists Hudgell Solicitors, has now concluded, resulting in a damages settlement being agreed by The Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust which could value as much as £8m should the girl live to her full life expectancy.

Pregnancy ‘poorly managed’ and mother not consulted over decision to deliver at just 24 weeks

As part of the legal case it was alleged the Trust failed to manage the mother’s pregnancy appropriately, particularly given she was known to suffer from high blood pressure.

It was alleged that had appropriate medication and care been provided, the pregnancy could have been safely managed to at least 28 weeks.

Independent medical experts, consulted as part of the legal case, said that with another crucial month of development, the girl would likely have been born with no long-term health problems.

Instead, she suffered impaired brain growth, chronic lung disease and has Global Development Delay, a condition that has significantly slowed all areas of her development and learning.

The girl has been assessed as currently having the intellectual function of a five-year-old, has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and difficulties with her speech and concentration, struggling to form friendships as a result.

She also has little sense of danger or her own modesty, leaving her vulnerable in society and unable to be left unsupervised at any time.

£2m damages paid and girl could receive a further £6m over lifetime

Following approval of the settlement at the High Court, an initial damages payment of £2m has been paid into a trust to be managed by a professional Court of Protection Deputy, alongside the girl’s parents.

Further annual payments will be made each year of her life to cover an ongoing dedicated case manager to oversee the girl’s many support needs.

It will also cover the costs for her to have 24 hour care when she is older, including providing appropriate accommodation for herself and her carer, as she will be unable to live independently.

Should she live into her mid-80s, as expected, the payments will total around £8m.

Birth injuries solicitor Chris Moore says damages reflects ‘lifelong impact of injuries’

Birth injury claims specialist Chris Moore, of Hudgell Solicitors, said the settlement was reflective of the ‘life-long impact’ the injuries will have on the girl’s life.

He said her mother, who was just 17 at the time, was not fully informed of the consequences of the ‘dangerously early’ emergency birth’, which doctors decided was needed due to her continued high blood pressure.

“This was a poorly managed pregnancy with a catalogue of errors from start to finish which have sadly had life-long consequences for my client and her family,” said Mr Moore.

“There was poor management of her blood pressure throughout her pregnancy. Despite her young age, her high blood pressure was known by all caring for her throughout her pregnancy, yet she was not given any medication to control this, despite many high readings, until she was 23 weeks pregnant.

“Then, when the decision was made to carry out the emergency delivery, it was done so in haste, and with no consideration of the family’s wishes. It was a dangerously early and there were other options. Experts said the levels of medication to control her blood pressure could have been trebled.

“Whilst she was informed of the danger posed should her pre-eclampsia worsen, and that both she and her baby could be at risk, she was certainly not told of the alternative options, and the huge potential differences to her baby’s health.

“Babies born at that stage are known to at a high risk of death and development disability and it was the opinion of independent experts consulted as part of this case that this girl was delivered at a time when she had little chance of being born without suffering some form of brain damage.

“Such decisions are not to be made solely by medical professionals and mothers and loved ones should be fully informed and consulted when decisions which could be potentially life-changing for all are being made.

“The reality is that the mother of this girl was not given the option to make an informed decision. She, nor her husband or her parents there at the time, were not fully informed about the possible consequences for the baby girl.

“At the time it was presented to her that delivery was the only option as both she and her baby were in danger. The reality, however, was that she was not in any immediate danger and there were other medication options to try extending the pregnancy.

“It was the opinion of independent experts that had the other option been explored and the mother’s blood pressure levels had been treated with appropriate medication for another four weeks, taking the baby to 28 weeks gestation, the girl was likely to have been born injury free.

“This is the kind of decision which a mother and family should never be denied the opportunity of making.”

Mother ‘devastated’ that daughter was denied chance of being born injury free

The girl’s mother, who had studied to work on airline cabin crew but had to give up her career hopes to care full-time for her daughter,  said she felt she had ‘no option’ but to agree to the caesarean section after being rushed from Goodhope Hospital to Birmingham Heartlands Hospital.

She said: “There was no discussion with myself, my husband or my parents as to whether it would be possible to extend the pregnancy further. I didn’t think there was any choice, and if I had been told of the options I would have not have consented to the caesarean section. We were told she was being born then.

“This was my first child and I would have done anything to reduce the risk of injury and allow her to have a normal life. Had the other option been explained to me I would have taken it as it would have made her more likely to be born without development injuries. This option was something I only found out long afterwards though.

“The plan had always been to manage my pregnancy until at least 28 weeks to give my baby the best possible chance. All of a sudden, having failed to properly control my blood pressure the decision was taken to carry out an emergency birth.

“She survived the birth but then we faced the heart-breaking threat of losing her. I can remember being told by doctors that they thought she had a 10% chance. They had put her at that risk and they gave her no chance of being injury free.

“We only started to find out how different things could have been after seeking legal advice. At first I wanted my treatment looking into because I felt I had been so badly cared for during my pregnancy. Then everything started to become apparent as to how the birth could have been later and the difference that would have made.

“As a family we have been devastated by the impact the errors made have had on our lives as a family, and most importantly on the life of our daughter. They have denied her the chance of an independent life.

“It broke me to know that this was something which could have been prevented. I have since had more children, each born at 36 weeks and with no complications despite my high blood pressure, because I was on stronger medication and monitored and treated properly all the way through.

“In some ways the lack of complications in their births have made it harder to accept what happened. It should not have happened and my other children are living proof of that.”

Damages funding carers, new home with annex and lifetime support

The family have already used damages to enlist the support of carers for their daughter, looking after her at the end of school three nights a week, as well as during school holidays.

Longer term, the family has identified a new gated home, with an annexe for the girl to move into as she gets older, giving her some independence whilst her family remain close by.

“We’ve had some very tough years, but as a result of this legal case and the settlement we now feel we can plan forward and we are certainly relieved to know that she’ll always have the support she needs.

“We now have carers who come after school three times a week, and in school holidays, to support us and take some pressure off us as a family. The impact on us all as a family has been huge as our other children have had to accept and understand that although they are younger, most of their parents’ time is spent looking after their sister.

“I have pretty much been alongside her all of my life. Don’t get me wrong, she has a great life because we go out of the way to make it so and to do fun things with her, but it will never be her own life. She’ll always depend on others.

“Thanks to help of Hudgell Solicitors and Chris Moore, who have been superb throughout the case and offered us so much support, we now know that despite always being vulnerable, she will always be protected, supported and cared for. That is very comforting to know.”


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18/10/2017 No Comments

Five-figure damages for mum left afraid to have more children due to injuries caused by hospital after giving birth

Doctors Hospital Corridor Nurse Pushing Gurney Stretcher Bed

A young mother has spoken of her heartache of feeling too afraid to have more children and extend her family due to medical staff leaving her with long-term injuries following the birth of her only child.

The woman, who has asked not to be named and was represented in a successful medical negligence legal case by Hudgell Solicitors, suffered a second degree tear when she gave birth to her son and needed stitching afterwards.

However, errors made during the repair procedure left her in pain for months – needing extra repair surgery months later, and told she faced the threat of serious further injury should she have another child naturally in the future.

The errors, which were admitted by the Hospital Trust involved – caused not only physical pain and suffering for the woman – but also psychological trauma going forward, as she has felt unable to face giving birth again.

‘It has impacted on my life and future family plans’

“The poor treatment I received after giving birth to my son has impacted on my life and my hopes for a bigger family,” said the woman.

“I was told that if I was to have another baby after the repair surgery, it was recommended I had a caesarean because otherwise I could end up with a fourth degree tear and possibly need a colostomy bag for life. It wasn’t something I thought I’d need to consider so quickly, as I had the coil fitted.”

Despite this, the woman fell pregnant just before her son’s first birthday – leaving her facing what she now says was ‘the hardest decision’ of her life.

“They said I could have had a caesarean at 37 weeks, but I’d already missed out with bathing my little boy and taking him for walks due to the pain I’d been left in after his birth,” she said.

“If I’d had a caesarean, I would have been in the same boat again, but with a scar on my stomach. I also really couldn’t face the idea of more surgery.

“I also knew that if I went through a natural birth, I faced the possibility of needing a colostomy bag for the rest of my life and a worse tear. I couldn’t have had my son climbing on me either and there would have been a risk of infection.

“I didn’t know what to do. It was the hardest decision I have ever had to make. But I felt I had no choice but to have an abortion. I felt I had to have it and I was heartbroken and gutted. My son was still so young and I was not ready.

“I should never have been in a position where medical reasons influenced a life decision like that though.”

Woman believed injuries were common after birth until seeing specialist

Even now, the woman needs further surgery to fully repair the damage caused by the initial errors in 2013. At present, however, it is not something she is ready to face.

“I don’t want to take it any further until my son is older because I couldn’t stand the pain,” she said.

“The more scar tissue they cut away, there will be nothing left to stitch up.”

The woman says that in the initial days after giving birth to her son, she assumed she was simply suffering as many mothers do after having a first child.

Having remained in hospital for a number of days due to losing blood, she was still in pain and bleeding when she returned home, something midwives said could be painful for some time and would take time to heal.

And having read online that pains could last between 6-8 weeks, she assumed everything would return to normal in time.

However, with pain persisting more than two months later, and unhappy with how the stitching looked, she went to see her GP, who sent her to a gynaecologist as her stitching had not healed.

“It wasn’t an easy birth as I had an epidural but I could still feel everything,” she said.

“If they had listened to me in that delivery room when I said I could still feel pain, they could have maybe done it right the first time and this could have been avoided.

“Initially, when I came out of hospital I was really sore, but just thought that was normal for someone who’d had a tear and been stitched up. As far as I was concerned, I assumed I would be sore because I’d just been stitched, so I didn’t think much more of it. The midwife suggested a few ways to soothe it but pain was expected.

“I was still bleeding and it was still tender at 10 weeks. Then I looked in the mirror and it looked like a wound. It had healed but it hadn’t joined together.

“My GP looked at it and said the perineum is usually 3cm but mine was only 1cm. I was referred to see a gynaecologist and that was when I was told I needed more surgery and the significance of my injuries became apparent.”

Going forward, the woman says she can’t at present see herself having more children to give her son a brother or sister.

“I couldn’t bear the thought of going through similar complications again,” she said.

“If I could have more children and guarantee there wouldn’t be more complications, I’d like to have more, but it is so difficult given what I have been through,” she said.

“My sister and I were really close growing up and I hate to think of my son on his own without siblings. But I don’t feel I can give that to him and I feel robbed.”

Five-figure damages offered after birth claim highlighted failure to follow guidelines

The woman took legal advice through Hudgell Solicitors, and as part of the case against the Trust which runs the hospital, it was alleged that a specialist trainee had not been adequately supervised when repairing the tear.

It was also alleged that they had failed to apply appropriate technique and failed to note the tear hadn’t been repaired correctly.

It was also alleged the trust failed to follow the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines.

The trust admitted “on the balance of probabilities” that it failed to apply the appropriate technique, that it had failed to follow the NICE guidelines and that it was likely the repair was not carried out to a satisfactory standard and caused the subsequent symptoms and need for further surgery.

It denied the allegations about supervision of the specialist trainee and failure to note it hadn’t been repaired correctly, but offered the woman a five-figure damages settlement, which she accepted.

‘New mums should be encouraged by midwifery staff to question any changes to their body’

Solicitor Nicola Evans, who represented the woman in the case, said: “It is often the case that someone who suffers injuries such as this simply cannot face further surgery when they have a young child to care for.

“This lady is in that situation now and it is all avoidable if the repair is done correctly in the first place.

“Pregnancy and labour is always difficult for the first time. No first-time mother knows what to expect or quite how their body is going to recover afterwards. When faced with injury, initial thoughts are often simply to get it fixed as quickly as possible so that they can enjoy their new bundle of joy.

“In my client’s case, it was a substandard repair which, again, she did not know what to expect and just assumed that the problems she had after the repair were to be expected. This was not the case.

“New mums should be encouraged by midwifery staff to question any changes to their body and where necessary request examination by either the midwives or their GP, to ensure that problems are not left unnecessarily.”

The woman said Nicola was a great support to her throughout her claim.

She said: “She has been brilliant and really kept me up to date with everything as my legal case progressed. I am glad she was able to get admissions of error from the trust and I hope lessons are learned, both by the hospital and in terms of awareness of other mothers to ask questions over their care.”

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16/06/2017 No Comments

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