Parents Of Daughter With Cerebral Palsy Speak Of Relief After Hospital Trust Admit Mistakes

Medical Law Experts Work Towards Rehabilitation Care Package

30.09.2014

The devoted parents of a four-year-old girl who suffered devastating brain damage as a result of mistakes made by midwifery staff when she was being born have spoken of their relief after the hospital Trust admitted liability, paving the way for a lifetime care and rehabilitation package to be agreed.

Cassandra Wiggin (known as Cassie), from Walsall, in West Midlands has severe cerebral palsy and is completely dependent on 24-hour care because midwives did not monitor her heart rate as she was being delivered at Good Hope Hospital on 13 March 2010, causing it to drop dangerously low and her brain to become starved of oxygen.

Her dedicated parents Sarah Myatt-Maley and James Wiggin instructed medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell to investigate whether more could have been done to help Cassie and to help them gain the support and specialist rehabilitation services she needs to live her life to its full potential.

Expert evidence commissioned by Irwin Mitchell found a catalogue of failures which Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust has now formally admitted liability to, including:

• Failing to admit Sarah on the labour ward in good time on 13 March 2010;
• Failing to administer Syntocinon infusion – to induce Sarah’s labour;
• Failing to perform Continuous Electronic Fetal Monitoring (CEFM) as soon as    Sarah was admitted to the labour ward to check Cassie’s heart rate was normal.

The Trust also confirmed that had Cassie been delivered by late afternoon to early evening on 13 March by emergency C-section (she was delivered 11:30pm) the brain damage would, in all likelihood, have been avoided.

The couple are speaking out for the first time today of their relief at knowing Cassie’s care and financial needs will always be met, but say it remains very difficult not to be angry as it is now clear that more could have been done for their little girl to prevent her being wheelchair dependant, unable to talk and feed herself.

Emma Rush, a specialist medical lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office representing the family, said: “It is a huge relief for Cassie’s family that the Trust has admitted liability for the brain damage she suffered as it means we can now negotiate a lifetime care package that reflects her complex care needs. 

“Cassie requires 24-hour care and whilst her family have shown her complete dedication, she needs the support of one-to-one care and specialist rehabilitation services to ensure she thrives to her full potential.

“Unfortunately the mistakes made during Cassie’s birth are not uncommon and Trusts across the NHS need to ensure that they are improving training and resource in maternity services so that mums and their babies are given the best and safest care possible.

“We would welcome a letter of apology sent from the Trust to Cassie and her parents, however we believe it also needs to confirm exactly what steps have been taken to learn lessons and improve standards form the errors made to protect future patient safety.”

On 9 March following  a normal pregnancy, Sarah, 24, was admitted to Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands for the birth of her first child.  Her due date was originally given as 26 February and Sarah was 11 days overdue so she was advised she would need to be induced.

Over the next few days medical staff monitored Sarah’s progress, but she was not induced. On 13 March, 15 days past her due date, a nurse attached a heart monitor at 8:38am and did a sweep at 10:40am causing her waters to break and she was told that arrangements would be made to transfer her to the delivery suite to have her baby. 

At 11pm, 12 hours after her earlier CTG Sarah was seen by a nurse again, and a heart monitor was attached and was taken to the operating theatre for an emergency caesarean section and delivered Cassie. An anaesthetist explained what would happen in theatre whilst Sarah was being gowned. 

When Cassie was born she was not breathing and needed resuscitation and was transferred to New Cross Hospital for extensive brain cooling as she had been starved of oxygen. She spent seven days in intensive care and a further eight days in the high dependency unit before she was allowed home with her parents.

Her mum Sarah said: “Our little girl had the worst start to life as a result of the hospital’s mistakes and that has been very difficult for us as a family to come to terms with.

“She has been diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy and has severe learning difficulties, epilepsy and visual impairment. She cannot walk, talk or communicate in any way with us or her little sister. She is now nil by mouth and can only be fed through her gastrostomy tube. Cassie is regularly in and out of hospital with chest infections and will be entirely reliant on us for the rest of her life.

“We are pleased and relived that the Trust have accepted responsibility for the mistakes made when Cassie was born and now this paves the way for us to be to continue to provide her with the very best care for the rest of her life so she can grow and develop.”