Jaundice Can Lead to Brain Injury in Children

In Eastern Texas, a family issued a lawsuit against a doctor and a medical center for not testing a newborn baby for jaundice. Tri’Micah and Joy London’s child suffered severe brain damage and hearing loss due to the oversight. Dr. Samantha Chaikin and Premier Pediatrics allowed the Londons to leave their facility without noticing that the child showed many common symptoms of the condition. This preventable oversight led to a significant loss of quality of life for this child – and similar situations occur throughout the country.

What is Jaundice?

Jaundice is a condition where the skin and the whites of the eyes turn yellow. Bilirubin, a buildup of old red blood cells, causes this condition to develop. When too many red blood cells die, a person’s liver experiences overload and cannot remove the dead cells from the body. Jaundice is especially common in newborn infants, with 60% of new babies born with the condition.

Infants develop jaundice symptoms a few days after they are born, which is why it is important for a doctor to oversee a newborn’s development during the first three to five days. Testing for jaundice in newborns is routine for experienced hospitals and physicians. If detected early, jaundice is not a harmful condition and requires minimal treatment. However, failing to notice jaundice can cause severe harm to a newborn.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that health care providers check for jaundice before a baby leaves a hospital. Proper testing for the condition will allow the baby to receive proper treatment before he or she suffers irreversible damage. In the case of Tri’Micah and Joy London, their supervising physician and medical staff failed to perform this simple, routine exam, leading to drastic consequences for the child.

How Can Jaundice Lead to Cerebral Palsy?

Although the exact cause varies from case to case, cerebral palsy results when a child suffers brain damage while in the womb, during early childhood development, or soon after birth. Often, children develop CP due to:

  • Infections before and after birth
  • Medical issues for the mother
  • Oxygen deprivation or hypoxia
  • Poor blood flow to the brain
  • Genetic disorders
  • Bacterial meningitis
  • Untreated jaundice

When a baby has high levels of bilirubin in his or her blood, brain damage can occur if doctors do not provide prompt treatment. This condition, athetoid cerebral palsy, affects the entire body. Also known as dyskinetic cerebral palsy, children with this condition experience symptoms such as:

  • Muscular dysfunction, such as muscle tone that is too tight or too loose
  • Uncontrollable movements and lack of control over their bodies
  • Difficulty making facial movements, such as swallowing or sucking
  • Difficulty nursing or eating without assistance
  • Inability or difficulty walking or sitting up
How do Doctors Detect Jaundice in Newborns?

Jaundice symptoms are not always obvious, especially in newborns. An infant with jaundice can remain alert and normal throughout his or her hospital stay. However, if a child develops any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention:

  • Trouble waking up
  • Difficulty nursing
  • High-pitched cries
  • Unusual eye movements
  • Fever
  • Arching of the back
  • Stiffness
  • Floppiness

Physicians and medical professionals must test an infant for jaundice before hospital discharge. This exam involves checking the child for obvious signs of the condition, such as yellow skin or yellowing of the whites of the eyes. In addition, doctors will use a skin sensor or blood test to measure bilirubin levels. If the levels are too high, the doctor will treat the infant, preventing further damage.

The Londons’ Story

Tri’Micah and Joy London did not receive basic preventive care for their newborn at the Longview Regional Medical Center in Eastern Texas. Their newborn was born on July 25th, 2010 and the family received a discharge a few days after. Medical staff failed to perform a blood test for the Londons’ newborn, missing high levels of bilirubin.

On August 3, 2010 the Londons rushed their baby to the emergency room after showing signs of sudden neurologic deterioration and seizures. Staff transported the baby by air to the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. At this Center, the Londons’ baby received a diagnosis for hyperbilirubinemia – a condition caused by jaundice.

The medical staff at Longview Regional Medical Center failed to detect significantly elevated levels of bilirubin in the child’s blood. This negligence led to brain damage and hearing loss. In 2012, Tri’Micah and Joy filed a lawsuit against the Center, seeking compensation for the time, money, and emotional stress their negligence placed on the family. The case is likely still in the courts, as a public verdict is not yet available.

The Londons experienced undue stress and heartbreak due to a significant mistake in a critical medical routine. Many other children experience birth injuries, disabilities, and other conditions due to negligence and other forms of medical malpractice. The Londons are seeking justice for their child, and many other families have taken the same course of action.

If you have a child who suffered medical complications due to a medical error, you deserve supportive, top-quality legal representation. Contact Cerebral Palsy LLC today to receive a free case evaluation and to discuss your legal options.