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A little boy who developed severe cerebral palsy after suffering brain damage during birth won one of the largest settlements so far in Nova Scotia: $6 million.
Toronto Star-Halifiax reports that the boy, Cullan, now a 7-year-old, was born at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish in July 2010.
He was delivered with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and later airlifted to IWK-Grace Health Sciences Centre for treatment.
According to the lawsuit, the defendants, which included Guysborough Antigonish Strait Health Authority and Dr. Allison Ball, failed to take the proper medical measures when they saw Cullan was in distress.
The physician decided against an emergency C-section, which ultimately led to oxygen loss for the baby, which then led to brain damage and cerebral palsy. Two nurses were also accused of failing to notice fetal distress.
Although the defendants did not admit to any wrongdoing, they agreed to settle the court case.
“He is unable to care for himself in any way and will require 24 hour attendant care for the rest of his life,” the plaintiffs’ lawyer said.
As part of his condition, the boy will require care beyond what’s typically expected of taking care of child. Part of the settlement will go help the boy’s parents with medical care and other expenses have arisen and will continue to arise as they take care of him.
“To see my son come out of me nearly dead, and then the next time I see him he’s freezing in an incubator, shivering. No one wants to see a little infant like that. It was totally traumatizing,” the boy’s mother, Monique Chisholm, told CBC.
Chisolm will likely never be able to return to work due to caring for her son around the clock. Cullan cannot speak. He can’t use the bathroom without the help of an adult and cannot control his body movement. For nutrition, he’s fed half the time orally and the other half through a G tube.
“There are funds to purchase all the rehabilitation care needs he will require (wheelchair, accessible van, etc.) and money to buy a wheelchair accessible home,” the lawyer continued. “The value of this ($6 million) claim is similar to what catastrophically injured children have received in other provinces. The exception is Ontario where it is not unusual for claims of this nature to result in settlements/awards in the range of $10 million or more.”
According to CBC, costs to take care of Cullen are currently around $70,000 per year. The costs will increase as times goes on, likely averaging around $130,000 a year by the time Cullen reaches age 21.
A third of the settlement money will go to pay legal costs that the family endured during the seven-year battle to get justice for the little boy.
“I just kept saying to myself, ‘He doesn’t have a voice.’ He didn’t have a voice. And what happened to him was so unfair and it shouldn’t have happened,” Chisholm told CBC. “That’s what was my motivation was and that’s what kind of got me through the whole process, really, and kept me fighting for him.”
Chisholm hopes that one day she’ll be able to help other families going through similar issues.
The defendants declined to comment on the settlement. It’s unclear if St. Martha’s Regional Hospital took any measures or changed policies/training methods in order to ensure other infants aren’t put at risk like Cullan was. It’s also unclear if the two nurses involved in Cullan’s care after his birth are still employed at the hospital.
Meanwhile, Cullan is doing good, considering the traumatic medical issues he’s experienced during his young life. According to Chisolm, the little boy, who lives with his parents and brother, loves to play on a “specialized swing” that his family placed the back yard of their home. He also enjoys baseball. After someone bats for Cullan, his father picks him and runs him around each base.
Brain Damage and Cerebral Palsy
Brain damage, typically shortly before, during, or after childbirth, is one of the many ways a child can develop cerebral palsy. Traumatic brain damage, such as what Cullen suffered, can happen for numerous reasons, including umbilical cord issues, placental problems, increased maternal blood pressure, jaundice, and undiagnosed and or untreated maternal infections.
For more information on causes, symptoms, treatment options and other details regarding infant brain damage, refer to our article, “Cerebral Palsy and Traumatic Brain Injury.”