Health Board Admits Liability for Nerve Damage to Girl’s Face

Health Board Admits Liability For Nerve Damage To Girl’s Face

One of Irwin Mitchell's expert Clinical Negligence Solicitors, Andrew Bowman, has won an admission of liability from the health board that performed an operation on a six-month-old girl, that resulted in nerve damage in her face.

The girl, C, was born in 2002. Around four weeks after her birth, C began to show signs of a mark on the right side of her neck, and a lump developed and continued to grow, becoming bluish in colour. 

In January 2003, C was referred to a paediatrician at the Royal Gwent Hospital. The paediatrician said it was a type of non-cancerous tumour and C was referred to Mr Simon Huddart, Consultant Paediatrician at Cardiff University Hospital.  

An MRI scan showed that the growth was as large on the inside as it was on the outside and Mr Huddart advised C’s mother, K, that C required an operation. He told her that the lump was a collection of small cysts and the operation would only cut out the outer cysts, and the operation was therefore quite cosmetic. On this basis, she agreed to sign the consent form for the operation.

Negligence During Operation

The operation was carried out in April 2003 and following surgery, the surgeon told K that he had found not a collection of cysts but instead a solid mass of tissue, and that the operation had been more complicated than expected. He said that he had removed the whole mass but suspected he may have caught a nerve. Shortly after the operation, it became clear that the surgeon had severed a nerve and this has resulted in C’s face dropping on the right side. 

In August 2003, C was referred to a plastic surgeon in Middlesex, who advised that they wait until C was 5 years old and then carry out a facial reanimation procedure involving grafting a nerve from her leg and muscle from her pectoral muscle into her face.

In June 2007, C underwent the first of the operations. She then had to wait two years for the next part of the procedure. Since the second procedure, there has only been a minor improvement to her face.  The surgeon said he could do the second procedure again and that he was hopeful this would be more successful.

Regular Trips To Hospital 

C is now 10 years old and is not keen to go through more operations. The right side of her face is paralysed, which particularly impacts her smile, and this has had a massive effect on her ability to join in activities like the other children, such as playing instruments at school.

C has suffered a great deal psychologically and has been bullied because of her appearance. She has seen a therapist to help her cope with anxiety and to increase her confidence. She also faces the prospect of procedures on her eyelids as she grows older. The whole family has been affected by C’s ordeal, with the stress and disruption of having to make regular trips to various hospitals.

Interim Payments Received

Andrew Bowman, from Irwin Mitchell’s Bristol office, has been representing C’s family and has helped build a case against Cardiff and Vale University Local Health Board for the operation in 2003 that Mr Huddart carried out. Andrew has demonstrated that Mr Huddart did not gain proper consent for the operation he carried and he was negligent for the nerve damage he caused.

Cardiff and Vale University Local Health Board has since made an admission of liability, so Andrew has applied for an interim payment of damages to assist the family while the final amount of compensation is decided. This money will help the family to provide the therapy and further treatment that C needs to make as best a recovery as possible.

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