Was My Daughter’s Cerebral Palsy Preventable?
By Ellen Robertson
Every parent of a child born with a brain injury asks themselves, “Was my child’s birth injury preventable?” Very few find the answer to that question. Why? Many times, they’re convinced by the physicians and other medical personnel involved in their child’s delivery that “these things happen.” How many parents actually take the steps to investigate their child’s birth in spite of assurances that their child’s birth injury was “unavoidable?”
Taking on Goliath
I remember having a conversation with a family member several months after our daughter was born. My daughter suffered a severe neurological injury at birth due to “complications of unknown origins.” During this conversation with my cousin, he suggested that I should have my daughter’s birth investigated. He also suggested that if investigators found that my daughter’s injuries were “preventable,” that I should sue for damages. I reminded him that he was suggesting I take on Goliath! I would not be suing a small, home town hospital. I would be suing one of the largest entities in the free world! I laughed at his suggestion and asked him if he knew any really, really good lawyers who would take such a case! I dismissed his suggestion and our conversation.
Making the Call
Fast forward almost 3 years. While watching television one afternoon, a commercial came on. It was a malpractice law firm with an advertisement about cerebral palsy and birth injuries. I don’t know why, but I tuned in to that commercial, as voices from the past filtered through my mind. The conversation I had with the Attending Pediatrician the morning after my daughter’s birth was as clear in my mind at that moment as it had been that morning 3 years previous. The words “this was preventable” echoed through my mind. He had explained to me that, had the staff used a fetal heart monitor during my daughter’s delivery, they would’ve seen her distress and been able to physically stop the vaginal delivery and perform an emergency C-section, possibly preventing the severe birth injury she sustained.
As I copied down the 800 number, the doubts and inhibitions crept in. I remembered the conversation I had with my cousin and the disturbing reality of what I was contemplating started to set in. Did I really want to take on this fight? Would a lawyer even take our case? I didn’t know. I knew one thing though, we had nothing to lose! My daughter was severely brain injured and I wanted answers! It was already becoming evident, as early as 6 months of age, that my daughter’s brain injury was going to have a profound negative impact on her life. I wanted to know exactly what happened during those 40+ minutes that robbed my daughter of a normal life. I made that call.
I had no knowledge of “statute of limitation” laws, but learned in my discussions with the lawyer that we were just 3 months away from the statute of limitations expiring. The resulting investigation by our lawyer provided the answers I needed. It was found that my daughter’s birth injury was the result of gross negligence on the part of the medical staff involved in her delivery. The negligence was such that our lawyer told us he was prepared to take our case to the Supreme Court if we had not won. As it turned out, we did win the case, and the ensuing settlement helped to provide a level of care and quality of life for our daughter that would not have been possible otherwise.
If your child was recently diagnosed with a neurological injury that you suspect occurred during their birth and you don’t have the answers you seek, MAKE THAT CALL. It may make the difference between you having to fight for services for your child their entire life, or being able to provide all the services and interventions they may need without government restraints or restrictions.
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