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Lawsuit Claims Delayed C-Section Caused Child’s Brain Injury

infant in NICUA recent birth injury case filed in the U.S. District Court of Tennessee (Nashville Division) claims that the defendant health care providers failed to properly manage the delivery of the minor plaintiff, which ultimately led to extended fetal oxygen deprivation and brain injury at birth.

According to the complaint, during the mother’s difficult labor and delivery, attending medical personnel failed to recognize and promptly respond to obvious signs of deteriorating fetal response, which should have indicated the need for an emergency C-section. The alleged malpractice and substandard health care took place in 2005, state the plaintiffs who now reside in Fontana and Pomona, California.

The lawsuit was brought by the minor child who is now ten years old, along with his mother and father. Since the alleged acts of medical negligence occurred at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, which is operated and funded by the government, the United States of America is named defendant in the complaint. The civil action for monetary damages was brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act relating to the alleged substandard nursing, midwifery and obstetrical care provided to the plaintiffs in January of 2005.

Plaintiff told she was a viable VBAC candidate

The mother plaintiff delivered her first child via Cesarean section in January 14, 2004. Shortly after having her first baby, she quickly became pregnant again, and was counseled by Barbara Fikes-Maki, CNM, that she was a good candidate for a vaginal birth after C-section (VBAC), according to the lawsuit.

During her meeting with Fikes-Maki in November 2004, the midwife informed the plaintiff that “60-80 percent of women who undergo a VBAC will successfully deliver vaginally.” However, the chances of a successful VBAC were not high, contends the lawsuit, considering the plaintiff had numerous risk factors such as:

  • Short stature
  • Questionable pelvic adequacy for a natural childbirth
  • Prior unsuccessful attempt at vaginal birth
  • Short time between pregnancies

Despite the fact that the plaintiff preferred a repeat C-section, she heeded the midwife’s advice and instead opted for a VBAC delivery. When she went into early labor, initial fetal heart rate tracings were reassuring; however within the first half an hour, the EFM strip indicated minimal variability and loss of accelerations — two signs of fetal compromise.

Delayed C-section – baby suffers perinatal asphyxia

The plaintiff argues that in this non-reassuring situation, rather than being admitted into the Labor & Delivery ward, the continuous fetal heart monitoring was stopped and she was told to walk around the hospital for an hour or so.

Roughly two hours later, the mother was admitted to the hospital, where labor progression was slow and fetal heart monitoring continued to show repetitive late decelerations, which was allegedly ignored by staff. Another hour later, after almost forty minutes of FHR tracings that were suggestive of a fetus suffering from repetitive episodes of oxygen deprivation, and therefore a high risk of developing acidemia, the staff then began the process for epidural placement. But the claimant says that no other measures were taken to address a worrisome FHR pattern.

After another hour of sustained decelerations and non-assuring fetal response, the medical team ordered a C-section delivery. Upon delivery, it was noted that the child was limp, with a bluish-tinged skin and no pulse. He wasn’t breathing and had a high blood acid level indicative of severe acidosis.

Child diagnosed with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy

The baby was immediately transferred to the NICU ward of Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, where he spent nearly a month. During his hospitalization, doctors used brain cooling in an attempt to mitigate the severe damage to his cells. Those attempts were not successful, however, as the child was diagnosed with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy caused by intrapartum asphyxia. 

The little boy has since been diagnosed with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and suffers from significant developmental delays, claims the suit. The brain damage has left him with impaired motor function, delayed cognitive abilities, and recurring seizures.

The parents contend that because of the nature of his disabilities and brain trauma, their child will always be permanently disabled and unable to work, and has consequently lost his earning capacity and a lifetime of wages.

Accordingly, the plaintiffs are demanding compensation to account for past and future medical and nursing care, special adaptive living expenses, special education costs, past and future mental anguish, pain, and suffering and loss of companionship for the minor, along with other related damages.

  1. Medscape, Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy

  2., Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy, or HIE, also known as Intrapartum Asphyxia