Family of Boy Who Suffered Brain Injury At Birth Hope To Help and Inspire Others With Special Diary
The family of a one-year-old boy who suffered a brain injury when he went without oxygen after complications during his birth are campaigning for lessons to be learned to improve care for others in the future.
Elliot Morris, from Godstone, Surrey, was born at East Surrey Hospital on 15 March, 2019, but was deprived of oxygen around the time of his birth as a result of which he has been left with a high risk of cerebral palsy. Until the birth the pregnancy had been completely routine and his mother Alex was healthy.
A report by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) has identified failings in the maternity care at the time of his birth and the family are campaigning for lessons to be learned to improve maternity care for other families in the future.
The HSIB report makes a series of recommendations as to how maternity care at the Trust could be improved including changes to the way CTG heart rate monitors are used; improving internal clinical guidelines and risk assessments for births following a previous c-section, and where oxytocin is used in the second stage of labour; ensuring staff awareness of the risks associated with uterine rupture; and ensuring anaesthetists are always made aware of the urgency of a birth as well as ensuring adequate staffing levels to deal with the day-to-day running of the delivery suite and emergencies.
Elliot’s mother Alex, 38, attended hospital with irregular contractions on the evening of 14th March 2019. Due to slow progress in the second stage of labour she was given oxytocin to speed up the labour before being sent to theatre and a C-section carried out.
Elliot was born in poor condition. He was pale, floppy and had no spontaneous respirations and after being intubated, he was transferred to a resuscitation unit and received brain cooling treatment. The HSIB report comments that “the mother had suffered a uterine rupture extending 4cm in length vertically. The mother’s bladder was inadvertently cut also requiring repair during surgery”.
Since Elliot’s birth, the family have been keeping an online diary of his care and progress and hope to inspire and support others who may be going through similar issues to those they are facing on a daily basis as they come to terms with his evolving disabilities.
The Instagram account @diaryofacoolingkid documents how he has learnt to roll over, the family’s playtime in the garden during lockdown and the specialist therapies Elliot receives to help his condition.
His parents, Alex and Nick, have also instructed specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate his care and the legal team has approached Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust seeking to explore the circumstances of his birth in more detail, and whether more could or should have been done to avoid Elliot’s lack of oxygen.
The medical term for his injury is hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) which can result in cerebral palsy, and although it cannot always be diagnosed at such a young age, Elliot may have developmental delay and issues with his movement.
During the following month his brain injury was diagnosed prior to being discharged home on 8 April 2019.
Alex, who has another child, aged seven, said: “During the early years of Elliot’s life we know it is crucial that he receives specialist support, rehabilitation and therapies, as early intervention can be vital in helping the brain to develop as much as possible.
“While we are aware that he will always be affected by his injury we are focused on giving him the best quality of life we can, no matter what that takes. His first year has been so difficult to come to terms with and to understand what is best for Elliot, but we are determined to help him and we are so proud of what he is achieving so far despite his condition.
“We started the diary to document what we were going through on a daily basis as a family, and as well as helping us to share our story, we hope that others may find a crumb of comfort in there too.
“We now just hope that as well as securing specialist support for Elliot, that the Trust will learn lessons from the findings in the HSIB report and will implement all necessary recommendations to improve maternity care for others in future.”
Expert Opinion“Sadly, Elliot has suffered from a neurological injury in the form of HIE (Grade 3) and he may now require specialist care and rehabilitation for the rest of his life. His family would like to ensure that lessons are learned from their experiences, and to do all they can to obtain the support Elliot may need to help him live his life as independently as possible as he grows up.
“The family are incredibly selfless in dealing with Elliot’s care and their diary of his first year is very moving. I have no doubt that many parents up and down the country facing similar issues will take comfort and solidarity from it.” Anita Jewitt - Partner
Elliot’s parents recall that there was confusion and panic in the operating theatre, whilst the staff were trying to work out whether the heart rate was maternal or fetal, with staff members disagreeing over this, and then an ultrasound machine was brought in to confirm it was in fact the baby’s heart rate.
The HSIB report comments “During interviews staff reported that it was usual practice for CTG equipment to be disconnected last and reconnected first in theatre. This did not occur in this case. The HSIB clinical panel consider that, had the CTG been re commenced earlier, the low heart rate may have been identified quicker and an earlier decision to perform a category 1 caesarean section made. During the transfer the staff appeared to lose sight of the importance of the previous decelerations in the baby’s heart rate and did not prioritise reconnecting the CTG quicker when time was of the essence. There was no record of the date, time and speed of the CTG being checked when it was recommenced in theatre, which made it difficult to establish exact timings”.
The HSIB report comments “The Trusts policy “Vaginal birth after caesarean section” states that “the use of oxytocin increases the risk of scar rupture by 3 fold, with a 1.5 fold increase of a repeat lower segment caesarean section”. The policy states a risk assessment must be made prior to commencing any form of induction of labour, with consent being taken from the mother. This did not happen in this case”.
Find out more about our expertise in supporting families following a birth injury at our medical negligence section. Alternatively to speak to an expert contact us or call 0370 1500 100.