A tragic story has emerged from the United Kingdom (UK) revealing that a 7-year-old boy labeled “disruptive” and “naughty” actually suffers from brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen at birth and other factors. After years of turmoil, the North London family finally has some sense of relief and clarity for their son. Sadly, there is no way to turn back the clock on what this family has experienced.
North London Family Struggles
The child at the heart of this story is now seven years old. He lives in North London with his parents and attends school. As normal as this sounds, this family has actually been under fire for five years from social workers and school officials. The child has been labeled naughty, disruptive, defiant, and has a history of outbursts and abnormal behavior.
He started school at a regular mainstream (public) school, but the staff was unable to manage his behavior and he was often excluded. Social workers accused his parents of being “bad parents.” You can only imagine what this family has been through.
It turns out, the family has been through a lot, and not just related to their son’s schooling. In October 2019, a court ruled that brain injuries the child suffered at birth was a significant factor in his behavior.
Birth Injuries That Caused Brain Damage
According to reports, there were several problems during labor and delivery, which resulted in a necessary emergency Cesarean (c-section). The c-section was delayed, however, which led to oxygen deprivation and brain damage. Medical records also show that the boy suffered from persistent pulmonary hypertension, or high blood pressure in the arteries that supply blood to the lungs.
The child also had seizures and was diagnosed with sepsis. At the time of his birth, doctors had to resuscitate the child. They used neonatal therapeutic hypothermia to cool him for 72 hours in an effort to prevent further brain injuries. Unfortunately, the damage was already done by the time he was cooled. At the time, his parents could have no way of knowing just how significant the injuries really were.
Brain Damage Ruled as Actual Cause for Child’s Behavior
After a long road and a life-changing delivery experience, the family filed a birth injury lawsuit against University College Hospital in London. They claim that negligence was the cause for the delayed c-section and, ultimately, for their child’s brain damage. Medical evidence presented at the trial supported this claim, and the hospital admitted liability.
During the trial process, medical experts came in to testify about the boy’s behavior. He was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Medical experts agree that he likely would not have ASD if not for the brain injuries he suffered during birth.
Ultimately, the court finds that the boy’s behavior is due to the brain damage he suffered at birth. The family was awarded a settlement of £30 million, or just over $38 million. This settlement amount will be used to provide care for the child. He now goes to a specialist school and has support workers hired by the family. His parents care for him at home, which is a challenge since his mother is in a wheelchair.
Life for a child with a birth injury is not easy. Now, the family can have a bit of peace knowing that the financial aspects of his care will be taken care of. They can provide the tools and support he needs to live a full and productive life. It is a real tragedy, however, that they have endured so much scrutiny and turmoil while searching for answers.
More Information about Infant Brain Damage
During pregnancy, labor and delivery, and in the months after birth a baby’s brain is actively developing. Any injury or illness can impact how the brain develops and can lead to brain damage. According to estimates, in the UK, the incidence rate of brain damage among newborns is around five out of every 1,000 live births. In the United States, estimates suggest that 200-300 children out of every 100,000 suffer some type of brain injury. There are around five million people in the U.S. who live with the effects of brain damage.
There are many causes of brain damage. Sadly, many infant brain injuries are due to an injury or illness during labor and delivery. Like the case above, an unfortunate number are due to the negligence of a healthcare provider or hospital. The most common causes of brain damage at birth are:
Oxygen deprivation can happen if there are umbilical cord problems, if birth is delayed, if the airway is constricted, or if the baby gets stuck in the birth canal. This birth injury happens in around four out of every 1,000 live, full term births. Oxygen deprivation can lead to a host of injuries including permanent damage to the brain, respiratory system, and cardiovascular system. Severe cases can lead to death.
Physical trauma can cause brain damage if it occurs during pregnancy, during labor and delivery, or shortly after birth. Brain injuries are a leading cause of cerebral palsy and intellectual disabilities. These injuries happen if the mother experiences trauma to her abdomen during pregnancy, if the baby’s head repeatedly strikes the pelvic bone during a difficult delivery, or if a doctor is too forceful during delivery. Traumatic brain injuries can also happen if someone drops the infant during or after delivery.
If a pregnant woman develops an infection, it can transmit to the fetus, which can cause brain damage. Maternal infections that can lead to brain damage include:
- Venereal Warts
- Yeast Infections
Research suggests maternal infections may also increase the risk of childhood cognitive issues and epilepsy.
Jaundice is a common occurrence in newborns, and most parents feel relatively at ease with treatment plans. However, severe cases of jaundice, or jaundice that is not treated right away, can develop into a condition called kernicterus. Kernicterus is a type of brain damage resulting from excessive amounts of bilirubin in the baby’s bloodstream. Too much bilirubin is toxic to the sensitive brain cells of a developing infant. Kernicterus can further develop into acute bilirubin encephalopathy, which can cause permanent brain damage.
Prognosis for Infants with Brain Injuries
Treatment of brain damage and the long-term effects will depend on the type of damage and severity of the injury. In the case of the boy in the UK, he suffers from cognitive and intellectual issues due to oxygen deprivation and other birth injuries. Not all children will experience this same degree of injury.
Therefore, the prognosis for an infant with brain injuries will vary depending on the exact nature of the child’s situation. What is most important for families to remember is to get medical attention at the first sign of brain damage. Whether it is in the days, weeks, months, or years after the child is born – any sign of a brain injury should be addressed.