Chicago Hospital Ordered to Pay $23.6 Million to Toddler with Brain Damage

For parents, learning that your newborn has suffered brain damage during birth is traumatic.  Now imagine learning that your child’s injuries were caused by the carelessness or negligence of a doctor or nurse.  There are hardly words to describe the fear, anger, and heartache parents suffer in these situations.

Fear, anger, and heartache is what one Illinois family has been battling for four years since the birth of their daughter.  Finally, a Cook County court has given the family some relief.

Brain Damage Case Information

Chicago’s Amita Health Saint Joseph Hospital has been ordered to pay $23.6 million to a 4-year-old toddler and her family.  According to the lawsuit filed by the toddler’s family, she suffered brain damage during birth after doctors failed to perform a Cesarean section (c-section) in a timely manner.

According to the lawsuit, filed in 2015, Marquita Snow-Whiten went to the emergency room after suffering a fall.  After tests and observation, she was released.  Shortly thereafter, while attending to a patient at her job as a nursing assistant, Whiten was kicked in the stomach.  She returned to the hospital and it was discovered that the baby’s heart was not functioning normally.

Three hours after arriving at the ER, Whiten underwent a c-section.  It was later discovered that her daughter had brain damage caused by hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, or HIE.  She did not receive adequate oxygen or blood to the brain for a period of time, which caused brain dysfunction.

The lawsuit alleges that there was an “unreasonable delay” in performing a c-section.  Further, the hospital “considered” head cooling treatment for the newborn, but never ordered or administered it.  She also was not immediately given a blood transfusion.

The now 4-year-old girl, Amirah, suffers from permanent brain damage, and has “extensive mental and motoric deficits”.  She requires full-time care and supervision, and will require a lifetime of ongoing treatment for her injuries.

Her parents filed the lawsuit with the goal of holding the hospital and applicable doctors accountable for their negligence.  After deliberating for two days, a Cook County jury has determined that the hospital is, in fact, responsible.  The hospital was ordered to pay $23.6 million in damages, which were allocated for loss of a normal life, pain and suffering, future medical expenses, and other undisclosed damages.

The award is being placed in a fund that will help Amirah’s family cover the cost of her lifelong medical treatment and day-to-day care.

Understanding Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy

Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, or HIE, is a complicated name for a not-so-complicated medical condition.  In short, HIE is a brain dysfunction that occurs when two conditions are met:

  • Oxygen to the brain is compromised (hypoxia)
  • Blood flow to vital organs is diminished (ischemia)

The term “encephalopathy” is a term used to describe any condition that causes reduced oxygen and blood supply to the brain.

Depending on how long oxygen and blood supply have been compromised, the effects of HIE vary considerably.  Brain damage may be mild, moderate, severe, or debilitating.  Sadly, some cases of HIE result in death due to extreme lack of oxygen.  Some of the ways that HIE can impact infants include:

  • Cognitive Issues
  • Developmental Delays
  • Epilepsy
  • Neurodevelopmental Delays
  • Motor Skill Function Impairment

The full extent of the impact of HIE may not be immediately recognized after birth.  In many cases, symptoms are not recognized until the child is a toddler and parents notice that milestones are not being met, or other symptoms emerge.  Some of the conditions most commonly reported by parents of children with HIE include:

  • Movement Disorders
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
  • Seizure Disorders (epilepsy, spasms, Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome)
  • Sensory Processing Disorder
  • Vision or Hearing Loss
  • Fine and Gross Motor Delays
  • Speech or Swallowing Disorders
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Chronic Lung Disease
  • Precocious Puberty
  • Hypo or Hyper Thyroid
  • Kidney Disease/Failure
  • Feeding Tube Dependent
  • Acid Reflux/GERD
  • Failure to Thrive

Depending on the extent of the brain damage, these conditions could be standalone, or could present in combination with any of these or other medical conditions.  HIE is a serious, dangerous medical condition.  Parents who are concerned about their child’s health, or who have documented a brain injury at birth should discuss their concerns with their healthcare providers.

Diagnosing HIE

With many symptoms of brain damage or HIE not immediately apparent, many parents may feel frustrated about the diagnostic process.  Like any complex medical condition, diagnosing HIE requires specialized testing.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), common diagnostic tests for HIE include:

Laboratory Testing:

  • Renal Function
  • Serum Electrolytes
  • Liver and Cardiac Enzyme Levels
  • Coagulation System
  • Arterial Blood Gas Levels

Imaging Testing:

  • Cranial Ultrasonography (sonogram)
  • Echocardiogram
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Additional Testing:

  • Hearing Tests
  • Ophthalmic and Retinal Exam
  • Electroencephalography (EEG)

How Common is HIE?

Unfortunately, HIE is quite common, affecting two to three out of every 1,000 live births.  What makes this number even more heart-wrenching is that research has found that 40-60 percent of infants with HIE die before reaching two years of age.  The majority of those who survive beyond two years old have severe disabilities.

Research conducted in 2011 also suggested that even though there have been major advances in obstetric sciences, monitoring, and prenatal care, the rate of HIE is not declining.  The majority of research and advances related to HIE are focused on reducing brain damage, while little is being done to prevent HIE events from occurring in the first place.

brain damage

What To Do if Your Child Suffered Brain Damage at Birth

If your child suffered brain damage or HIE at birth, there is no question that you want answers about how and why this happened.  Of course, there are medical complications that cannot be predicted or prevented in time, but many cases of HIE could be prevented with proper and timely care.

At Birth Injury Guide, we help families who have been affected by birth injuries, including brain damage.  Our attorneys are dedicated to protecting the rights of injured infants, and helping their families secure compensation from those responsible.  Contact us today if you have any questions or concerns about your child’s brain damage, HIE, or other birth injury.

We offer free case reviews to every potential client, so you have nothing to lose by contacting us.  Let our skilled attorneys help you find answers and hold the responsible parties accountable.  Call us today at 877-415-6603, or fill out our online form to get started.

Meagan Cline

Written By Meagan Cline

Meagan Cline is a professional legal researcher and writer. She lends her expertise to the team at Birth Injury Guide to provide up-to-date and relevant content that clients can count on.