Baby boy suffers severe brain damage despite five checks by three midwives

6 January 2015

Baby boy suffers severe brain damage despite five checks by three midwives

Midwives failed to notice a baby boy was dangerously jaundiced after his birth, eventually leading to admission to ICU after being told his jaundice was nothing to worry about. Five inspections by three midwives over four days failed to identify how seriously the substance which was causing his jaundice was in fact damaging his brain.

Baby Khan Gold, now 19 months, was born perfectly healthy and allowed home the following day. Over the next four days he was seen five times by three midwives who failed to notice he was dangerously jaundiced after his birth. The midwives informed his parents, Ed and Laura-Faye Gold, that the jaundice was nothing to be concerned about.

However, baby Khan Gold was in fact suffering from an advanced development of bilirubin which was increasing and causing damage to his brain. Bilirubin is a noxious substance that turns the skin yellow and can damage the brain.  Despite suspicious symptoms, the parents were told that the jaundice was of no major concern.

Jaundice is a highly probable risk in newborn babies and should always be monitored closely

Only when baby Khan Gold’s mother called the local hospital to say he kept arching his back as if pain was the suggestion made that he needed a proper medical inspection. He was brought into hospital, placed in ICU and given a transfusion.

Unfortunately by that time the substance-bilirubin-had caused a rare form of brain damage known as kernicterus. This now may mean that Khan is likely to need 24-hour care all his life and doctors are uncertain if he will be able to ever walk or talk.

Mr Gold spoke to the Daily Mail and said ‘The midwives didn’t seem to know this could happen. We feel a sense of loss, loss because my wife gave birth to a healthy child who was taken from us at five days old.’

In fact, because the livers of newborn babies are not fully developed, six out of ten will suffer jaundice to some extent.

Jaundice is caused by excess bilirubin and is typified by yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. The chemical is created as red blood cells break down, and is normally removed from the blood by the liver.

Failure to promptly identify, diagnose and treat conditions and risks that arise in new-born babies can often lead to claims for compensation because of all the warning signs that are missed, despite the fact that lack of development in the make-up of a child’s body and immune system makes them susceptible to greater risk and need for caution is always needed in monitoring their condition.

Despite the symptoms of jaundice, three midwives who visited the baby at home suggested he should be taken out in the sunshine to help his jaundice. Unfortunately his condition would only worsen with feeding difficulties and an unnatural back and neck arching suggesting extreme discomfort and pain.

After Baby Khan Gold was brought into the hospital, tests did not identify the serious level of jaundice until a senior consultant was brought in. A transfusion to replace half the blood in his body was required as well as week under special rights to break down bilirubin. However, this was not sufficient as the parents were told to prepare for a serious brain injury.

Management at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust wrote to the family in September, apologising for the ‘failures’ that caused Khan’s brain damage. As a result of this admission, the family is now seeking compensation.

‘No amount will ever compensate for what happened, but we want to make sure Khan is looked after when we are gone,’ Mr Gold said.

He added: ‘It’s very difficult for us to see other families with their children running around, knowing Khan is unlikely to ever play with his siblings in that way.

‘We just want to warn other parents about the risks and ensure the hospital makes whatever changes are necessary to prevent this.'

In a letter to the family, Angela Pedder, chief executive of the trust, admitted Khan did not ‘receive the treatment he should have done’, adding: ‘I would like to offer my sincere apology and deep regret for those failures.’

Trust spokesman Jeff Chinnock said: ‘Lessons have been learned to ensure the risk of this happening again is minimised.’

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