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Case won for child who suffered brain damage after midwife failed to listen to parental feeding concerns – significant care package to be secured
Jack, now seven
Jack suffered catastrophic hypoglycaemic brain damage as a newborn after community midwives failed to refer him to hospital and left it too long before they came back to check on him. Jack will require 24-hour specialist care for the rest of his life and has significant cognitive and physical disabilities. JMW partner Melissa Gardner has helped Jack to win his case against the hospital responsible, meaning he will have access to the specialist care he requires.
Breastfeeding support needed
Jack’s mother Ellen had an uneventful pregnancy and there were no concerns raised about mother or child. When Ellen’s waters broke the day before her due date, she attended the maternity hospital where she was booked for delivery. Doctors had some concerns about Jack’s heart rate during labour so a decision was made to perform a caesarean section to deliver him.
The following day both Ellen and Jack were discharged home under the care of the community midwifery team. Ellen decided she wanted to try to breastfeed Jack but had no previous experience. As with other mothers in the same situation, Ellen required a high level of support from the midwifery team to ensure Jack was feeding enough.
The day after Ellen and Jack arrived home they were visited by a community midwife who recorded in her notes that Jack was jaundiced. Babies who develop jaundice in the first day or two of life are at risk of complications and require a blood test. However the midwife did not arrange this. She also provided inaccurate advice by telling the family to put Jack in light and wrongly said that the family did not need a further midwifery visit to so that Jack could be checked for another three days.
In addition to Jack’s jaundice, Ellen and Jack’s dad Paul were concerned about how much he was feeding as he did not seem to be latching on properly and would only stay at the breast for a couple of minutes. The midwife did not heed these concerns and reassured them that Jack’s feeding appeared fine.
Over the next two days Ellen and Paul remained worried about how much milk Jack was taking and tried to give him top-up fees with formula. Having been reassured by the community midwife that his feeding was normal they decided to wait until the next visit to bring it up again. Jack remained uninterested in feeding and was sleepy and Ellen and Paul continued to try to offer him formula feeds.
When Jack finally received a further visit from a community midwife he was noted to be jaundiced all over his body, face and the whites of his eyes. The midwife reported this by telephone to the hospital, along with the poor feeding and sleepiness. The doctor on call asked for Jack to be brought to hospital straight away. On arrival he was found to have very low blood sugars (hypoglycaemic), severely jaundiced and lethargic.
Tube feeding was set up and phototherapy started to treat the jaundice, however by now it was too late to prevent serious and permanent brain damage.
Melissa Gardner, Jack’s specialist brain injury solicitor, commented:
This was a tragic and avoidable case and a classic example of the catastrophic consequences when midwife knowledge and training is not up-to-date. I will be working to secure significant compensation that will give Jack access to the best possible care.
Ellen and Paul had concerns about the care provided to Jack and that their concerns about his feeding had not been acted on until it was too late. After contacting JMW for advice, their case was taken on by the specialist brain injury team in the medical negligence department.
A comprehensive investigation was carried out by the team at JMW. This included gathering evidence from leading medical experts, who agreed that is was negligent for the first community midwife not to have referred Jack to hospital due to his jaundice and poor feeding. The experts also concluded that earlier treatment would have prevented Jack’s brain damage.
Case won against hospital
JMW’s experience in such cases meant that a strong case could be put to the hospital trust responsible for the midwife. This resulted in a full admission by the hospital trust that it was responsible for Jack’s brain damage. Melissa Gardner, a partner specialising in brain injury medical negligence cases, is now working to settle Jack’s case so he can have access to the best specialist care for the rest of his life. This will include recovering compensation to enable Jack to have specially adapted accommodation, specialist equipment and therapy, as well as at least one specialist live-in carer to help his parents look after his complex needs.
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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 lawyer, Eddie Jones.