A mum’s experience of a medical negligence claim

Archie had a brain injury during birth – from the beginning it was obvious something wasn’t right. His mum explains why she sought legal help.

Can you tell us a little about the nature of your child’s injury?

Archie experienced a prolonged period of lack of oxygen during his birth. To my shock, he came out blue and floppy and required resuscitation. He then spent around four weeks in NICU and SCBU. Much as we hoped he would recover, it was obvious from the beginning that something wasn’t right.  When Archie was around 12 weeks old he was diagnosed with full-body cerebral palsy and later, at six months, epilepsy. It was initially devastating to realise he would be severely disabled and be dependent on us for life. But that gave us the impetus to advocate for what he needed.

At what point did you talk to legal professionals?

Really quite early on. At a follow-up meeting with the hospital, we realised that Archie’s injury wasn’t just ‘one of those things’. Archie was about 10 weeks old at this point. But it wasn’t until a few months later, once we had a copy of the Trust’s serious incident report (which identified failings and delays that had most likely contributed to Archie’s Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy event), that we instructed Irwin Mitchell.

How have you found the process?

It’s been a complete rollercoaster! But compared to the experiences some people in our situation have been having, it’s been fairly straightforward. It really helped that we had a friendly and efficient legal team behind us. They held our hands and were always in contact, plus we found them fair, clear and supportive in their advice. At times it’s been stressful and gruelling. Coming near the end, getting all the reports and evidence finalised reduced me to tears on a number of occasions. That’s when our legal team came into their own, keeping everything moving and been in constant communication. And it was worth it all in the end to know Archie’s needs will always be met.

What advice/tips would you give to other parents going through a claim?

Ask for recommendations of a decent solicitor before you even start – you want to know they are going to have your back no matter what and get you through years of litigation. Make sure you really like them as you’ll be speaking to them a lot. More than your friends at times! In a practical sense, keep as many records as you can of poor sleep patterns, or extra expenses, or challenging behaviour, or positive signs of development. You may think you’ll remember it all, but six years down the line, especially if life is easier, it can be hard to think back to dark times when you were tearing your hair out at the difficulties you once faced. Everything is evidence!

Anything else to add?

It’s not an easy process but if there’s a claim, it means your child is deserving of the extra support and equipment and advantages you’ll be fighting for. No matter how stressful it might be, it’s worth it in the end. The peace of mind you get is priceless. But make sure you take care of yourself along the way. It’s OK to put yourself first and to accept help to put you in a good frame of mind to design a life that’s hopefully relatively stress-free once your claim is settled. The family sought help from law firm Irwin Mitchell for their son’s legal case. For more information read our Parents’ guide to legal support: medical negligence including birth injury claims.
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