$13,629,000 For a Boy Who Has Severe Brain Damage as a Result of the Hospital and Physicians Failure to Diagnose His Mother’s Preterm Labor and Give Her a Timely Dose of Ritodrine

On February 10, 1984, Sheila Karney gave birth to a son, Jason, at Arnot-Ogden Memorial Hospital. The birth was premature and fraught with problems, and as a result, Jason suffers from cerebral palsy. A jury found the doctor and hospital at fault and awarded damages to Sheila and her son.

Sheila Karney experienced vaginal bleeding during her pregnancy and on February 9, 1984, she went to see her personal physician. At 10:50 AM that same day, her doctor ordered a sonogram, but the results were not out of the ordinary. He placed Sheila on the obstetrical floor for bed rest and observation.

Later that night, at 8:00 PM, Sheila went into labor. Despite this, her obstetrical nurse did not call the doctor until two and a half hours later. She called him again at 11:00 PM and told him Sheila was having contractions five minutes apart. Her doctor went to the hospital and, at 11:45 PM, performed a vaginal exam and determined that Sheila was dilated to four centimeters.

He gave her Ritodrine to delay the labor and Betamethasone to improve the lung maturity of the fetus. At 12:05 AM the next day, Sheila’s cervix had dilated to five centimeters. At 12:40 AM Jason was born. He weighed only two pounds and six ounces, and his Apgar score was just one after one minute.

Jason remained intubated and on ventilatory support for his entire stay at the hospital. His discharge was in April of 1984. At 15 months he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He is unable to walk and requires assistance for all his personal needs. His speech is normal and he has normal intelligence, although he did suffer from recurrent respiratory difficulties which have since resolved.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a brain affliction caused by damages to the brain. Normally incurred during pregnancy or labor, the victim is rendered incapable of living a normal life due to sometimes severe mental and physical limitations. Cerebral palsy often affects only one side of the body, but may affect the entire body.

What Causes Cerebral Palsy?

Anything that damages the brain can cause cerebral palsy. This often means a lack of oxygen, but often physical damage to the head can cause it, too.

  • Lack of oxygen. This can happen during gestation or labor. If the blood is oxygen poor, the brain will be starved for its power source. Eventually, a brain starved of oxygen will die, but treating the condition can prevent death. If not treated soon enough, it can result in cerebral palsy.
  • Low blood levels. Sometimes the blood has enough oxygen but does not arrive at the brain in sufficient quantities. The result is the same: a brain without enough oxygen to properly function, and the ensuing damages.
  • Physical injuries. Even if the brain has enough oxygen, an actual physical injury to the brain can also cause cerebral palsy. Improper use of forceps is a common cause, as are injuries sustained by the mother to her abdomen during gestation.
  • Blood conditions. When the blood has a condition that prevents its normal functioning, the brain can sustain damage as a result. Jaundice is a condition often found in newborns wherein bilirubins accumulate in the blood stream. If not treated, this can seriously injure the infant, and cerebral palsy is one possible outcome.
  • Abnormal birth conditions. Many abnormal birth conditions can prevent oxygen from getting to the brain. For instance, twins or triplets sharing the same uterus can put a large demand on delivering oxygen. A breech birth can inhibit the flow of oxygen. Premature birth also increases the dangers to the fetus.
  • Diseases. Some diseases make cerebral palsy more likely. Rubella, Zika and chicken pox are three such examples. Certain sexually transmitted diseases, like Herpes and Syphilis, are also possible causes of cerebral palsy.
Does Cerebral Palsy Have Recognizable Symptoms?

Though a medical diagnosis is necessary to confirm cerebral palsy, a child with this affliction will present various symptoms that we can learn to recognize. If you notice symptoms in a newborn or young child, a proper medical exam is necessary.

  • Ataxia. Cerebral palsy can cause a lack of motor skills or poor coordination.
  • Involuntary movements. Cerebral palsy will often cause jerky movements in a child.
  • Spasticity. The reflexes of a child with cerebral palsy are often overly large
  • Muscle stiffness. Often, a child with cerebral palsy’s muscles are stiff, as if they cannot relax.
  • Athetosis. Cerebral palsy can present itself in slow, writhing movements that the child cannot seem to stop.
  • Difficulty eating. It is difficult for a child with cerebral palsy to chew and swallow, and they may drool excessively.
  • Low muscle tone. Cerebral palsy can reduce muscle tone and strength in those who suffer from it.
  • Delayed developmental milestones. A child with cerebral palsy’s first words and first steps will likely occur later than in children without the disorder.
Caregivers Must do Better

Cerebral palsy is a condition that medical professionals can often help avoid with proper medical care and supervision during a pregnancy and birth. Eliminating medical mistakes is the most important part of reducing the incidence of cerebral palsy in the population. Caregivers must be alert and responsive to their patients’ needs. With more effort, we can prevent cerebral palsy from affecting the lives of so many.

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