Your baby’s birth should have been joyous.
You spent nine months waiting and anticipating a beautiful delivery.
Your obstetrician reassured you.
Your obstetrician allayed your fears.
You saw your baby on ultrasound.
Maybe you saw your baby on 4D ultrasound.
Maybe you even had that image printed on a T-shirt.
You decided to learn the sex of the baby.
You always wanted a little boy.
Maybe you’re having a little girl.
You picked out the colors for the baby’s nursery.
You picked out toys.
You picked out clothes.
After delivery, your newborn is rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit, the NICU.
You didn’t even get a chance to hold her.
The obstetricians and nurses in the delivery room reassure you.
They tell you everything will be fine.
Maybe you had a significant tear to your vagina during your vaginal delivery.
Maybe it was a 3rd degree or 4th degree laceration.
All you know is that your doctor spent a lot of time sewing you up after your delivery and telling you that you’ll be sore down there for quite a while.
Maybe you needed an emergency C-section.
Your doctor told you he’s done thousands of cesarean sections.
He told you it’s routine.
Maybe there were complications during your C-section.
They had trouble stopping the bleeding.
You needed blood transfusions.
Lots of them.
Later that day, a pediatrician at the hospital reports that your newborn baby had lots of tests.
X-rays. CAT scans. Blood work.
Specialists came to examine your child.
Your baby was having trouble breathing.
She’s now hooked up to a respirator to help her breathe.
You want to see your baby.
The doctor tells you that she’s hooked up to different IV tubes right now along with monitoring equipment.
You’ll be able to see her once you’re on your feet.
Two days later, you speak to the pediatricians again.
The doctor gives you devastating news.
Your baby has a problem.
Your baby suffered brain damage.
This will likely be permanent.
“How did this happen?” you ask, not believing this could happen to your little girl.
The doctor gives you vague excuses.
He tells you “Sometimes, these things happen.”
You don’t believe him.
What he’s saying doesn’t make sense.
Your obstetrician told you during your prenatal care that your baby was totally healthy.
This pediatrician tells you that’s not the case.
At least not now.
You demand to talk to the pediatric specialists.
You want to speak to the pediatric neurologist who examined her.
He comes to see you later that day.
He tells you your baby will never be like the other children.
Your baby will need lifelong services.
Your baby will likely never be able to walk on her own.
She will likely have muscle spasms and seizures on a regular basis.
She’s going to have a lifelong disability.
You don't understand.
How could this happen?
What could have gone wrong?
The answer to that question, unfortunately, is plenty.
A birth injury can be caused by many different things.
It could happen because a doctor or hospital staff fails to do something that they should have done.
Maybe they didn’t recognize your baby was in distress.
Maybe your baby should have been delivered earlier.
Maybe you needed an emergency C-section.
Maybe your child was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
You ask how this occurs and the doctors again give you unsettling answers.
Cerebral palsy can be caused by your baby being deprived of oxygen during delivery.
A diminished lack of oxygen to the brain is called hypoxia.
A total lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain is called anoxia.
Either way, when a baby’s oxygen supply is cut off, the result can be permanent brain damage, cerebral palsy, or death.
Your doctor is not going to volunteer that your baby was deprived of oxygen before birth or during delivery—you will have to figure that out for yourself when you or your pediatrician notice that something is wrong with your baby.
Maybe you were told your baby suffered an injury to her arm.
Your beautiful little girl now has an injured arm that will likely be permanent.
The doctors again try to reassure you.
They tell you that an injury to her arm may be temporary.
They won’t know for sure until she’s about a year old.
They’ve told you she has a condition known as Erb’s palsy.
Maybe you’ve been told she has Klimke’s palsy.
These are nerve injuries to the arm and shoulder.
How severe her disability will be depends on how much damage there was to a group of nerves that control the arm and shoulder.
During your delivery, you might have noticed some commotion in the delivery room.
Doctors looking worried or concerned.
Maybe some senior doctors were called in hurriedly to help.
Maybe they needed to use forceps to get your baby out.
Maybe they were using a vacuum extractor to help your baby out.
You saw the doctor kept putting it back in after it kept popping off your baby’s head.
You saw a doctor pulling on the baby’s head with all his might.
You don’t know what’s going on, but this doesn’t look right.
You learn later that your baby got stuck on the way out.
Her shoulder got stuck behind your pubic bone.
Your obstetrician had to maneuver the baby in a way to help her out.
At least that’s what he told you.
He said these maneuvers of twisting, pulling and tugging were ‘normal’.
They didn’t look normal.
You even saw your doctor put his feet on the table and it looked like he was pulling on your baby’s head as hard as he could.
If your baby gets stuck behind your pelvic bone as she is trying to come down the birth canal, this is an obstetrical emergency.
Medically, this is known as shoulder dystocia.
If your baby is not delivered quickly, she can suffer significant brain injury as a result of deprivation of oxygen.
If your doctor isn’t capable of maneuvering the baby out safely, he might also cause a brachial plexus injury such as Erb’s palsy or Klimke’s palsy, where the nerves in the neck and shoulder are stretched and damaged and the baby loses some or all use of her shoulder, arm, hand, or fingers.
Think about that—because of an incompetent delivery, your baby may be handicapped for life.
Why didn’t you have a C-section?
You think a C-section would have avoided all these problems.
Maybe. Maybe not.
Your doctor told you he’s done thousands of C-sections.
He told you they’re routine.
Actually, they’re not.
They’re major abdominal surgery.
There are risks to doing a C-section.
There’s risk to you and to your baby.
Your doctor likely didn’t want to worry you about those risks and tried to explain that these are simple surgeries done all the time.
You later learn that your baby was in distress for a long time.
They can see evidence of that on your fetal monitoring strips.
Another doctor asks why you weren’t delivered at that point?
Your delivery notes show you were in labor for a long time.
You were not dilating well.
You were not making much progress.
Maybe you had a fever.
Maybe you had an infection during delivery and didn’t realize it.
Maybe your doctor wasn’t monitoring your baby’s fetal monitoring and neither were the nurses.
Maybe the nurses failed to recognize a problem on the monitor.
Maybe they failed to notify your obstetrician to come in and double check to make sure everything was ok.
Maybe your baby’s heart rate was racing and the young doctor-in-training didn’t recognize how significant that observation was.
There could be many reasons why your baby has these injuries and developmental delays.
So how do you know if your child’s injury was caused by malpractice?
The only way to know is to obtain all of your medical records and your baby’s records.
Then, we need a well-qualified, board certified obstetrician to review your records.
We’ll likely need other medical experts to review the records as well.
Only then can we make an educated decision about what really went on during your labor and delivery.
Was it medical carelessness that caused your baby to have a permanent shoulder injury?
Was it a failure to timely perform a C-section that now caused your baby to be deprived of life-giving oxygen leading to permanent and lifelong brain injury?
Was it because your uterus ruptured and the doctors failed to recognize this life-threatening emergency in a timely fashion?
Money won’t undo the damage, but it can help your child heal.
You may not want to sue your doctor, especially if you have a long relationship with. But you may have no choice. You must think about your baby’s future and her medical needs down the road. In New York, victims’ families can seek compensation for:
- Medical bills
- Home and vehicle modifications
- Physical therapy
- Future medical costs
- Pain and the suffering she will endure during her lifetime
You need to become your biggest advocate for your child.
If you don’t stand up for your rights and your baby’s rights, nobody will.
What should you do now?
If your child has cerebral palsy, suffers seizures, autism, developmental delays, or your child is not meeting her developmental milestones, something may have gone wrong during your delivery.
You likely have many questions.
I have answers.
I answer questions just like yours every day and I’d love to talk with you.
You can reach me at 516-487-8207.
I look forward to your call.