The attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers obtained a $3.85 million settlement for a little boy with cerebral palsy who is unable to walk or talk and has to get all his nutrition through a feeding tube.
Physicians had labeled this pregnancy as being “high risk” because the mother had sickle cell disease (SCD) and a brain abscess requiring brain surgery. Women with SCD are at an increased risk of having a baby with a low birth weight. Despite this, physicians failed to act on an abnormal Doppler ultrasound at 36 weeks and 2 days of gestation that showed that the baby had intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and decreased blood flow going to the placenta. IUGR (small baby) means that the baby is having poor growth in the mother’s womb. This typically occurs when the baby is not getting enough oxygen and nutrition in the uterus. An ultrasound additionally showed that, although normal, the amniotic fluid was decreased. This can also be an indication of IUGR.
Physicians did not discuss the abnormal findings with the mother; she was not informed that her baby had IUGR, nor was she told that babies with IUGR should be delivered between 34 and 37 weeks of gestation. The expert who testified on behalf of the mother at trial concluded that the little boy should have been delivered at 36 weeks and 3 days.
Delivery of the baby boy did not occur until 37 weeks of gestation, when the mother was admitted to the hospital because she was experiencing a sickle cell crisis. The baby was left in oxygen depriving conditions for four days beyond the date the expert said he should have been delivered. To make matters worse, the baby had abnormal (non-reassuring) heart tracings at admission, which is also a sign of oxygen deprivation. Physicians did not take appropriate action here either, and delivery did not occur until approximately five hours after the abnormal tracings. Given the high risk pregnancy, IUGR, and non-reassuring fetal heart tracings, the standard of care dictated that prompt action be taken to deliver the baby at admission. It was later discovered that at admission, physicians overestimated the baby’s weight by 1,000 grams. The baby was so small that his weight was less than the 1st percentile of babies at similar age. He weighed just over 1900 grams (4.2 lbs) at birth.
Sadly, the baby was born with very low Apgar scores, an indication that he would need medical attention. In addition, his umbilical cord blood was acidic, another indication that he was being deprived of oxygen in the womb. Shortly after birth he began having seizures, and images taken of his brain were abnormal, indicating brain damage. He was diagnosed with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE/birth asphyxia), and he was given brain cooling (hypothermia) treatment in an attempt to slow down or prevent further brain injury. Despite the treatment, he was later diagnosed with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and profound developmental delays.
Defendants argued that the HIE occurred 1-4 days after birth, and that a brain bleed (hemorrhage) caused the HIE. Defendants further argued that the ultrasounds that indicated that the baby had IUGR did not warrant delivery. The defense also claimed that when the mother was admitted for her sickle cell crisis, a five hour delay in delivery was proper because the delivery occurred when fetal monitoring became concerning.
Sickle Cell Disease, Oxygen Deprivation, And HIE
Pregnant women with SCD are at risk of their babies experiencing oxygen deprivation because SCD can cause restricted blood flow in the placenta. In addition, the increased oxygen and nutrient consumption that occurs when SCD is present also can cause a reduction in oxygenation (and nutrition). Due to the potential oxygen (and nutrient) deprivation in babies of mothers with SCD, the standard of care requires more frequent prenatal testing and that physicians pay very close attention to signs of IUGR and decreased well-being of the baby. Failure to take appropriate action when a baby has IUGR and is receiving decreased blood flow and oxygen can cause the baby to have HIE. HIE is a form of brain damage caused by decreased oxygen in the blood going to the baby and/or decreased flow of blood going to the baby.
Help For Babies With HIE And Other Birth Injuries
The award winning attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers have been helping children with birth injuries throughout the nation for over two decades. Jesse Reiter, the firm’s co-founder, has been focusing on birth injury cases his entire 25+ year career. Jesse and his team help children all over the country, and when they take a case, they spend a lot of time getting to know the child and family they are helping so they can fully understand the child’s needs. Jesse has won many awards for his advocacy of children, and he is currently recognized as being one of the best medical malpractice lawyers in America by U.S. News and World Report 2014, as well as one of the 10 Best Attorneys in Michigan by Super Lawyers magazine. Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers is also recognized as being one of the best law firms in the country by U.S. News and World Report 2014.
Birth injury law is a difficult area of law to pursue due to the complex nature of the medical records. The nationally recognized attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers have decades of experience with birth injury cases, including those that involve IUGR and HIE. To find out if you have a case, contact our firm to speak with an experienced attorney. We have numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements that attest to our success, and no fees are ever paid to our firm until we win your case. Email or call us at 888-419-2229.