On September 25, 2018, after a three-week trial, a Michigan medical malpractice jury awarded $130,571,897 to a child who suffered a severe and permanent brain injury due to the lack of oxygen during a medical procedure that resulted in the child suffering cerebral palsy. The Michigan medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that in 2006, when the child was two months old, two nuclear medicine technicians at the defendant hospital failed to timely and appropriately respond to the child when he stopped breathing normally while they made multiple attempts to start an IV.
The child allegedly suffered a prolonged breath-holding spell while the technicians worked to start an IV. The Michigan medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that the technicians negligently failed to timely begin chest compressions and negligently failed to timely call a code blue to resuscitate the child. As a result, the Michigan medical malpractice plaintiff alleged that the child suffered a hypoxic-ischemic event that resulted in massive brain damage that led to the child developing cerebral palsy.
The plaintiff’s Michigan medical malpractice lawyer stated after the jury returned its verdict, “Nothing will ease the suffering of this child, but at least this settlement will alleviate some of the financial burden from his caretakers. I’m grateful for the jurors service and gratified they agreed that this was a preventable tragedy.”
The defendant hospital released a statement after it was found liable for the technicians’ alleged malpractice, stating, “We are committed to providing extraordinary care, every day. We took this case before a jury because we believe the care we delivered was appropriate. Even though the dollar amount of the verdict will be substantially reduced due to applicable law, we stand by the care we provided and are appealing.”
According to the Child Neurology Foundation, breath-holding spells are episodes in which a child cries because he is hurt, frightened, or upset, turns pale or blue, and loses consciousness. Breath-holding episodes are involuntary and usually last less than one minute. They typically start between 6 to 18 months of age and occur in both boys and girls, and usually stop by the time the child is 7 years old, although many children will cease having episodes by the time they are 4 years old.
During a breath-holding spell, the child usually will start to cry and then will make no sound although he will appear to still be crying. With breath-holding spells, the child cries and is exhaling or breathing out, but not inhaling or breathing in.
There are two types of breath-holding spells that are characterized by the color change that the child experiences during the event. Pallid episodes occur when the child becomes pale and cyanotic episodes occur when the child turns blue, especially around the lips. Cyanotic episodes are more common than pallid episodes. In some instances, there are features of both cyanosis and pallor, and they are termed mixed episodes.
Cyanotic episodes are usually triggered by the child becoming frustrated or angry. The child will typically cry vigorously, but for less than 15 seconds. Then the child becomes silent, stops breathing, and rapidly turns blue. Usually there is loss of consciousness and the child will be limp. Often the child will seem to stiffen and arch his back. The child usually recovers in less than one minute. He may gasp and then have a return of regular breathing. He will regain consciousness and return to normal although he may seem to be tired. Rarely will the child still be upset and cry again, triggering another episode.
Pallid episodes are often triggered by sudden fright or pain. Falling with a minor injury to the head is frequently the triggering event, and it is the unexpected pain that causes the episode. The child may gasp and give a very brief cry. Sometimes the child does not even give a cry, but only opens his mouth like he is going to cry but makes no sound. If the child does cry, it is for a few seconds and then he abruptly stops crying, become pale, loses consciousness, and becomes limp. The child looks like he has fainted. Sometimes he will also appear to turn slightly blue. The child may become sweaty and sometimes may stiffen and have a few body jerks or lose bladder control. These episodes last less than one minute, after which the child regains consciousness and will recognize people but can seem sleepy for several hours after an episode.
Breath-holding spells vary in how frequently they occur and may happen several times per day or only once per year. When a child first starts to have episodes, they may occur weeks or months apart but then increase in frequency. The majority of children with breath-holding spells have 1 to 6 episodes per week.
According to the Child Neurology Foundation, although breath-holding spells are frightening to watch, the child is not harmed by them and they do not cause any brain damage or result in epilepsy, and they do not affect the child’s development or have any long-term effect on his life.
If you or a loved one may have been harmed as a result of medical malpractice in Michigan or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a Michigan medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your medical negligence claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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