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Baby left severely brain damaged following student midwife negligence – compensation won
Parents of a baby boy who suffered severe brain damage after an unaccompanied student midwife made basic failures in care have called on a trust to put safeguards in place to ensure the same situation is never repeated.
One-year-old Vasili Kalispera, of Malvern, Worcestershire, almost died after a mature community midwife, who unbeknownst to parents Michael and Elena was a student, failed to act on signs that he was dangerously unwell. This allowed Vasili’s condition to spiral out of control and cause permanent brain damage.
Although lucky to survive, his parents Michael and Elena have been told Vasili has cerebral palsy, is virtually blind, and is deaf after he was diagnosed with a type of brain damage called kernicterus. Kernicterus can be caused if a baby develops jaundice as a newborn and is not monitored and treated appropriately.
Claiming compensation with JMW
After Michael and Elena challenged Vasili’s care with the help of the specialist medical negligence team at law firm JMW, Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust admitted the midwife failed to provide adequate care. The trust has since written to the family to offer its sincere apologies for the poor care that led to Vasili’s brain damage.
In its admission the trust states that the midwife failed to act on Vasili’s jaundice when she visited him at home when he was just one day old and he was brain damaged as a result. This is despite clear guidelines from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) that says newborn babies with jaundice should be tested and referred for hospital treatment if their condition is found to be severe.
The family’s perspective
Vasili’s father Michael Kalisperas, 35, commented: “My wife and I are absolutely devastated by what happened to Vasili. He was born a perfectly healthy baby boy so it is difficult to comprehend how two days later he could be fighting for his life. When a mature midwife is in your home reassuring you that everything is OK you trust that it is.
"We had no idea that the midwife was a student and if we had we would have asked for a second opinion. We trusted that she knew what she was doing but now all our trust in the NHS is gone.
“We have cried so many tears for our little boy who will have to live with the consequences of this negligence for the rest of his life. We relive the same nightmare every day. Why were the guidelines not followed? Why was the student allowed to make an assessment unaccompanied?
“Vasili is a fighter but it is still heart-breaking to know that he is likely to be severely disabled and his future will be shaped by the fact that basic errors were made in his care.
“It is absolutely crucial that this is not allowed to happen to any other child and the trust must take every possible to ensure that it cannot.
“We call Vasili our little Spartan as he is a strong baby. Our love for him is unwavering and anything we can do to help stop any other parents from going through what we have we will.”
Eddie Jones, head of medical negligence at JMW, is representing the family.
He commented: “Despite the catastrophic consequences of kernicterus, and guidelines from NICE, Vasili was failed by a clear lack of awareness of the risks of newborn jaundice. What is concerning is that his case may have revealed a systematic failure in the training of new midwives who should be alert to the fact that jaundice in a newborn baby requires prompt investigation.
“We have been warning of the need for greater awareness of this issue for some time. Sadly Vasili’s case it not an isolated example, although it is one of the worst we have seen. We are currently representing several other children whose lives have been devastated by kernicterus that was completely preventable if the signs had been recognised, adequate checks made and the child referred for treatment.”
Undiagnosed severe jaundice
Vasili was born on the morning of Friday 18th May 2012 at Worcestershire Royal Hospital in a healthy condition. Michael and Elena took Vasili home that evening and throughout the night he was fine and feeding well.
However the following morning the family noticed that Vasili was jaundiced. When the student midwife visited the family early that afternoon they reported the jaundice to her. She did not do any checks of this or offer any advice. She was so unconcerned, she said she could return to check on Vasili and Elena on Monday rather than the next day as planned (Sunday). Elena was hesitant about this but as the midwife was so reassuring she agreed.
On the Sunday morning Vasili was more severely jaundiced and when he passed urine that was dark orange Michael and Elena became so concerned they called the midwife. They were visited by a different midwife who advised the couple to take Vasili to hospital.
On arrival Vasili was given phototherapy to address his soaring levels of bilirubin – the substance that causes the yellowing of the skin and eyes. Vasili stopped breathing but doctors were able to resuscitate him and he was later given a blood transfusion. However it was now too late to prevent him from suffering devastating brain damage.