Girl suffered catastrophic brain damage & requires 24-hr care after hospital failures 


Lawyers acting for a four-year-old girl who suffered catastrophic brain damage as a newborn while under a hospital’s care say a catalogue of basic errors by staff have devastated her life. 

Sally Okumu, of Reading, was born healthy but now has cerebral palsy, is deaf and has global developmental delay due to the severe and permanent brain damage she sustained at Royal Berkshire Hospital. 

Despite Sally being in a hospital unit staffed by doctors and nurses specialising in care for newborns, an investigation by specialist solicitors at law firm JMW has revealed that vital checks were not done and jaundice that Sally developed was allowed to spiral out of control until her brain was permanently damaged.

Court proceedings have now been issued by JMW Solicitors against Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust on behalf of Sally and her family as the trust has refused to accept its care was negligent despite strong evidence to the contrary from leading independent medical experts. 

Angharad Hughes, a brain injury specialist at JMW Solicitors, who is representing Sally and her parents Chris and Evelyne Okumu in their legal battle against Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, commented: 

“This is an extremely tragic case as Sally should have been in the best possible hands in the special care baby unit but suffered an injury of the utmost severity due to a lack of basic care. Her parents find that, and the fact they repeatedly raised concerns about the increasing severity of her jaundice, extremely difficult to accept.

“This case comes down to a lack of basic checks of Sally’s blood bilirubin levels, the substance that causes jaundice and can affect the brain, which in a specialist hospital setting is completely unacceptable. A further extremely concerning issue is that JMW has another kernicterus brain damage case against this trust relating to newborn jaundice failures two years before Sally’s case. 

“Sally will require very specialist care and assistance for the rest of her life and will never be able to work or live independently. Every day creates new challenges for her and her parents when they should be just be enjoying her childhood but unfortunately the trust is now adding to their distress by denying any wrong-doing.” 

Sally was born at 33 weeks by caesarean section on 28 May 2012 as her mother had high blood pressure, which can cause problems for the baby. Sally was taken to the hospital’s special care baby unit for monitoring but was healthy and in a good condition.

However on 31 May she developed jaundice, which NHS guidelines state requires regular monitoring, especially in premature babies. Treatment must also be provided if the jaundice reaches a high level as there is a risk of a type of brain damage called kernicterus if it becomes too severe. 

The family alleges that a test was done on Sally’s blood bilirubin levels, the substance that causes yellowing of the skin and eyeballs, on the 31 May but no follow up tests were done to check if the level was increasing. 

Despite Sally’s parents repeatedly raising concerns about the increasing severity of her jaundice they say a further test was not done until 4 June which revealed that Sally’s condition was critical. Phototherapy treatment was started but by now Sally’s brain was being damaged and she required an urgent blood transfusion, which should have been started by 3pm. However the hospital delayed doing this until 9pm and investigations later revealed that Sally had suffered severe brain damage. 


For more information, please contact:

Kelly Hindle

0161 828 1868

07921 388 584 

Samantha Meakin

0161 828 1981

07595 277 842

Note to Editors

JMW Solicitors LLP is a leading Manchester law firm and offers a broad range of legal services to both commercial and private clients.JMW’s Clinical Negligence team is headed up by leading clinical negligence lawyer, Eddie Jones.


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