Questions Parents Should Ask Soon After Birth to Help Ensure the Health of their Baby

PART 3 OF MAX’S STORY

Max’s mother, Ellen, was shocked that the head of pediatric neurology only had negative things to say about her son’s outlook, and failed to inform her of early intervention treatment programs to help maximize Max’s potential.  Ellen discovered that starting therapy as soon as possible is critical for babies and children with cerebral palsy.  With the help of a hospital social worker, she was able to get an occupational therapist to see baby Max, and Max was started on a physical therapy program within 2 months of his birth.

Of course, almost all the events that occurred around the time of Max’s birth were surprising to Ellen and Dave.  Max’s continuous seizure activity and severe brain damage caught the couple completely off guard and were indeed very troubling and shocking to the new parents.

We have written extensively on how a mother can play an active role in her prenatal care and delivery to help ensure the health of her baby.  Parents must also play an active role after delivery.  Asking simple questions can help alert or remind physicians and the medical team of important issues that need thorough follow up.

Questions to ask after birth include the following:

  • Is my baby breathing normally?  Is she having any periods in which she stops breathing (apnea)?  Is her apnea being treated?
  • If your baby is on a breathing machine, ask if they are checking to make sure they are not overventilating her and that they are monitoring her oxygen, carbon dioxide, lung pressures and other important parameters.  The best breathing machines for babies are the ones that give very small breaths, called oscillators or high frequency ventilators.  Some smaller hospitals don’t own these (or have only a few) and must rent them, which is what they should do.
  • Is my baby’s blood sugar normal, and have they tested it with the lab test in addition to the bedside test?
  • Does my baby have jaundice, and if so, are her bilirubin levels such that she should be treated?
  • Has my baby’s blood been sent to the lab for the basic tests (usually genetic) that are done on all babies at birth? Research shows that tens of thousands of these very important tests are not performed, lost or delayed every year.  These tests are performed to check for disorders that can cause permanent brain damage and cerebral palsy, and the disorders are easily treatable.
  • Is there any chance that my baby sustained a brain injury during or near the time of delivery?  If so, is my baby a candidate for brain cooling (hypothermia) treatment?  This is very important because if your baby has a condition called hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE, which is a brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation), brain cooling must be started within 6 hours of the oxygen depriving insult.  Brain cooling treatment has been shown to prevent or minimize further brain damage in babies with HIE.  Brain cooling has greatly reduced the incidence of cerebral palsy.
  • Is my baby at risk for seizure activity?  If so, do you have continuous EEG monitoring capability so that you can quickly diagnose and treat the seizure?  ** Seizures can cause permanent brain injury, and the more the seizures occur, the more brain damage a baby will get, in most cases.

A mother and father must play an active role in their baby’s care.  Often, there is a breakdown in communication among the many participants on the medical team, which causes delayed or missed treatments and diagnoses.  Remaining engaged with the team treating your baby can help ensure that important steps are taken in the care of your child.  It is a good idea to keep a checklist of questions and answers pertaining to your baby’s care.

Many people feel as though they can sit back and relax and let the medical team do their job.  However, recent research has shown that preventable hospital errors are a major cause of permanent injury and death in patients.  Furthermore, as a birth injury attorney, I see many simple mistakes that cause permanent, lifelong injury in a child.  Physicians fail to treat apnea, they fail to follow up on tests for jaundice, hypoglycemia, and genetic problems, and they don’t pay attention to the data on a baby’s breathing machine or blood gas results.  Sometimes doctors fail to properly monitor a baby for seizures and the baby has continuous seizure activity with nobody noticing.  Other times, doctors fail to test for brain injury right after birth and then critical brain cooling treatment is not given to the baby.  I’ve also seen a baby have signs of infection, without anybody treating it.  This can cause meningitis and cerebral palsy.  These are just a few of the many mistakes that can be made during a baby’s stay at the hospital.

If a baby is diagnosed as having brain damage, early intervention is crucial.  Sometimes the medical team fails to talk to parents about the importance of early intervention.  If your baby has a brain injury, ask to speak to an occupational therapist and ask about early intervention programs.  Research shows that early intervention increases the effectiveness of therapy and results in better outcomes for the child.

REITER & WALSH: ADVOCATES FOR CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS AND CEREBRAL PALSY FOR OVER 25 YEARS

Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers is a national birth injury law firm that has been helping and advocating for children for decades.  Jesse Reiter, the co-founder of the firm, has been focusing solely on birth injury cases for over 25 years.  He is currently recognized as one of the best medical malpractice attorneys in America by U.S. News and World Report 2014, which also recognized ABC Law Centers as one of the best law firms in the country.  The attorneys at ABC Law Centers have won numerous awards for their advocacy of children and are members of the Birth Trauma Litigation Group (BTLG) and the Michigan Association for Justice (MAJ).

If your child was diagnosed with a permanent disability, such as cerebral palsy, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), intellectual disabilities or developmental delays, the award winning attorneys at ABC Law Centers can help.   We have helped children throughout the country obtain compensation for lifelong treatment, therapy and a secure future, and we give personal attention to each child and family we represent.  Our nationally recognized firm has 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 Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers at 888-419-2229 for a free case evaluation.

Part 1: Why Max and other kids with cerebral palsy shouldn’t be pitied.

Part 2: How Max got cerebral palsy.

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