A woman who suffered a heart attack and brain damage at Great Ormond Street Hospital has settled her case

A disabled young woman who suffered a heart attack and brain damage at Great Ormond Street Hospital has settled her medical negligence claim after the hospital admitted a breach of duty.

The woman, known only as R, was represented by medical negligence solicitor Olive Lewin from law firm Leigh Day.

R, who was one of surviving twins (the other twin being ‘ not viable’ at 29 weeks gestation), suffered brain damage at birth after experiencing circulatory disturbance in her system.  She was later diagnosed with spastic quadriplegia and was a wheelchair user.

She could not speak but was able to communicate by eye pointing and using switches to access a computer through very limited voluntary movement in her left arm. She suffered intermittent spasms.

In October 2001 R became unwell and was taken to hospital with suspected fitting.  In December of the same year she was taken to Great Ormond Street Hospital for an outpatient appointment to identify epilepsy.

After the procedure, known as an EEG, whilst waiting for transport to take her back to her local hospital, she was given a drink and became “unrousable but breathing”.

Two consultants attended R but within five to ten minutes of their arrival R suffered a cardiac arrest.

It was immediately apparent that the necessary equipment to treat R for her cardiac arrest was not available.  There was no oxygen or suction equipment in the area and equipment had to be borrowed from nearby wards meaning there was a delay in resuscitating R.

As a result of this delay R suffered significant additional brain damage.

Great Ormond Street Hospital made a full admission of liability and have apologised to R’s parents.  Mr Justice Warby described the incident as an “institutional failure”.

R now has no voluntary movement, is registered blind and cannot take any food orally, she is unable to swallow and has been fitted with a balloon gastrostomy.

Before suffering a heart attack and brain damage at GOSH R could chew and swallow without choking.  Since the cardiac arrest she has episodes of coughing whenever she is moved which leads to regular choking episodes.

Before the cardiac arrest R was able to bear weight and could assist with transfers. She could use her arms to operate switches allowing access to specialist software on a computer.  She was also able to control her trunk when sitting and standing.

R attended a mainstream school, playing a full part in the school community and was doing extremely well academically. She had a varied social life and interests. She is now completely paralysed, incontinent and has lost her normal intelligence.

Before the cardiac arrest, she was described as having a bright and strong-willed personality. Now she is very quiet and often sleeps during the day.

R has been left with considerable complex care needs.

Medical negligence partner Olive Lewin said:

“A young disabled woman has been denied the little independence that she had because of the failures of Great Ormond Street Hospital.  If the correct resuscitation equipment had been available when my client suffered a cardiac arrest it is likely that the brain damage she suffered could have been avoided.”