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22 October 2022 | Case Study | Article by Helen Dolan

Mother-of-two severely brain damaged due to 999 call error

Delayed ambulance resulted in young woman suffering severe brain injury in her own home. It should have been a night for celebrating, but on the first night Laura and her husband Dan spent in their new house with their two young children, their lives changed forever.

Laura suffered an unexpected cardiac arrest whilst in bed; Dan immediately called for an ambulance on 999 but the service Laura received was not what she was entitled to expect.

During the phone call, Dan was not told by the call handler to begin performing CPR until four minutes into the start of the call. Once Dan was told to start performing CPR, the call handler failed to tell him to move Laura from the soft bed onto the floor so that the CPR would be effective. Dan was also told to perform 600 chest compressions but the call handler didn’t explain the correct rate or keep count.

Dan, who was becoming increasingly anxious and upset, was reassured on multiple occasions that an ambulance had been dispatched and was on the way however the ambulance wasn’t actually dispatched until Dan had been on the call for over seven minutes. This led to a significant delay in Laura receiving proper care.

As a result, she suffered a severe brain injury from lack of oxygen; her brain injury has had a devastating impact, not only on Laura, but also on her family. Laura has severe cognitive problems and fatigue, she will not return to her highly skilled job and is also unsafe to be left alone. She needs round-the-clock supervision and will do for the remainder of her life.

Laura’s ability to parent her children has been significantly affected by her brain injury and she requires support with parenting. Dan and their children have needed specialist therapeutic input to help them all come to terms with the life-changing event.

Helen Dolan, Partner at Hugh James and Laura and Dan’s solicitor, brought a claim on the basis that had the ambulance been dispatched immediately and effective CPR and defibrillation given within a minute or two of their arrival, then Laura’s brain damage would have been avoided altogether.

That claim was ultimately successful and we recovered an award of compensation for Laura of £5.6 million (gross) which was broken down into a lump sum payment of £2.6 million and £120,000.00 annual payments until her youngest child was 13 and then annual payments of £100,000 for the rest of Laura’s life. This will ensure Laura has the care and support she needs for the rest of her life.

Helen commented:

The trauma suffered by this family as a result of paramedic negligence cannot be understated. When the emergency services are contacted, a caller has a right to expect that call handlers are appropriately trained and can give the right resuscitation guidance; minutes count in these life and death situations.

In this case a transcript of the call was obtained and it was clear that the call handler was not able or did not know how to communicate the basics of CPR.

The delay in the ambulance arriving added insult to injury, and had appropriate care been given even at that late stage the damage would have been avoided. This family now have to cope with a life changing brain injury and all of the hardship that brings with it.

The names and identifying details of the client have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals involved.

Author bio

Helen Dolan is Joint Head of the Manchester Office and Head of the Clinical Negligence team. Helen specialises in high value complex secondary brain injury, spinal cord injury (including cauda equina syndrome), birth injury, cerebral palsy and wrongful birth cases, and also has extensive experience of orthopaedic and surgical cases.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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