The birth of a child is supposed to be one of the happiest days in the life of his or her parents and, usually, it is.
But, when the nurses or the doctor responsible for caring for the mother and her baby do not follow accepted protocols during labor or delivery, this much anticipated blessed event can end in a lifetime of tragedy for parents and child. Mom and Dad may have to face separation from their infant because she requires weeks or months of treatment in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. When baby finally is released, what the future holds may be a mystery that could take months or even years to become clear to parents and healthcare workers alike.
When a baby is deprived of oxygen during labor or delivery, it may suffer brain damage ranging from mild to severe. The affected child may have seizures and other medical problems. He or she may be diagnosed with cerebral palsy after birth.
Symptoms that a full-term fetus may be at risk for brain damage before birth include low fetal heart rate and the failure of the baby’s heart to recover to a normal baseline after a contraction. Fetal monitoring by the nurses, if it is being done properly, will detect these sometimes subtle changes which, if worrisome, should be reported promptly to the physician. They suggest fetal distress and the possible need for emergency delivery if the baby’s condition does not improve within an appropriate period of time after the mother is given supplemental oxygen and/or re-positioned.
At the time of delivery, there are other signs and symptoms of birth injury, such as poor muscle tone, weak breathing or no breathing at all, pale or bluish skin color, and failure to respond to respond reflexively to stimulation, such as a mild pinch. The delivery room personnel will rate the baby’s condition to each of these on what is referred to as the APGAR score. The higher the baby’s score on a scale of 1 to 10, the healthier the baby appears to be - scores of 7, 8 and 9 are considered normal; few babies score a perfect 10. Scores of 0 to 3 or 4, which persist over five to ten minutes, are often associated with birth asphyxia, or inadequate oxygen reaching the fetus during labor and/or delivery.
Because the cost of caring for someone with a serious brain injury can run into many millions of dollars over the course of a lifetime, holding the responsible party accountable is absolutely critical if the parents are going to be able to provide optimal care for their child. When a careless or negligent health care provider is not held accountable, the family has to rely on government services, the availability of which fluctuate depending on the economy and the political climate, because the taxpayer will have to pick up the tab.
If there is any concern that a baby was injured during labor or delivery, it is essential that the parents communicate with an attorney experienced in this field. Rice & Bloomfield have handled birth injury cases throughout the State and their combined 50 years of medical-legal experience will be invaluable to understanding what may have gone wrong and why. If it appears that a birth injury was preventable and occurred because of the carelessness of a health care provider, Linda Fermoyle Rice and Todd Bloomfield will be your greatest allies and assets in resolving the claim in such a way that child and family are protected and receive the help and care needed.