NHS Foundation apologise to Erbs Palsy sufferer
The parents of a young paralympian hopeful who suffered catastrophic injuries as a result of errors made during her birth have today said they feel a weight has been lifted after receiving a formal apology from the Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation trust.
Eleven-year-old Natalia Lees from Huyton, suffered serious injuries to the nerves in her spine during her birth, at Fazakerley Hospital in 1998, because the midwife on duty failed to follow approved procedures.
Following the formal apology she will also receive a six-figure settlement, which will be held in a trust fund, to ensure she receives a lifetime of care. The family’s solicitor, Caitlin Delaney from law firm Irwin Mitchell, says the award reflects the severity of Natalia’s injury.
She said: “Natalia now suffers from the most acute form of Erbs Palsy, which is paralysis of the arm, because her shoulders became stuck behind her Mum’s pelvic bone after her head had been delivered. This is known as shoulder dystocia, which, if managed negligently, results in nerve damage and life-debilitating injury. However, drills and skills for the management of shoulder dystocia have been an integral part of midwifery training since the mid-nineties and so it is disappointing to see that at this time avoidable mistakes were still being made.
“As a consequence of the injury, Natalia has an underdeveloped right arm which is severely reduced in function and she will live with the disability for the rest of her life. She has had years of physiotherapy, and occupational therapy, and had to undergo several operations. Her needs are so great that her mum, Karen, was forced to give up her career to look after her.
“Natalia also suffers with a tremendous amount of nerve pain and is dyslexic and so we are delighted that her future care and therapy can now be taken care off. We hope that she will be able to live independently eventually, but her home will require adapting and it is a great relief to the family to know that this is now possible.”
At 9.11pm on 14th September 1998, after a 12-hour induced labour, Natalia was born, with the assistance of a senior midwife and a paediatrician. She was not breathing when she was delivered and had to be resuscitated. Mrs Lees was rushed to theatre and had to undergo emergency surgery as she lost so much blood during the course of the delivery.
Mrs Lees, a former nursery nurse said: “I was so grateful that Natalia was alive, but I knew that something was wrong. Although we are so pleased to have received the money we needed to secure Natalia’s future needs, the apology from the trust means so much more, it’s as if a weight has been lifted.”
Doctors at the hospital told the new parents that they suspected their daughter had suffered nerve damage to her right arm during the ‘difficult birth’. Karen added; “The arm was completely limp, there was no movement in any of her fingers, her right eyelid was also closed. She was later diagnosed with Erbs Palsy and Horners Syndrome*.
“We hope that by pursuing legal action we will help draw people’s attention to the systematic failings of the Trust so that this never happens to anyone else. I only hope that over the last decade lessons have been learnt from what happened to me and my daughter.”
Natalia now attends a local school with her younger sister Kristina and despite the disability to her right arm is now an accomplished swimmer who is setting her sights on the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.
Mrs Lees added: “Natalia never fails to impress us with her dogged determination. She joined the local swimming club, the Liverpool Penguins in 2008 and is now the youngest member of the North West squad.”
Natalia now trains diligently several times a week in Liverpool and Manchester. In 2009, she swam in the British Open Championships in Sheffield and has just qualified to compete in the 2010 National Junior Championships in every stroke.
She continued: “We are particularly proud of Natalia this week as she has learnt how to tumble dive, something that children with Erbs Palsy really struggle to do because of their dexterity issues. She also won four gold medals at the weekend in her club Christmas championships.”
* Horners Syndrome is a drooping of the eyelid