Six years since her son’s traumatic birth, Karen finally gets to be ‘just his mother’

Karen Russell spends every second of every day looking after her son.

In the six years since Gill’s birth, Karen, from Aghada, Co Cork, has not only cared for him in every way, but has also fought his corner in a long legal battle.

In the High Court her senior counsel described her as “one hell of a mother” as she secured an interim settlement of €1.4m for her son.

An artist who once worried about exhibition space, Karen’s focus has been on her child since his traumatic birth in Erinville Hospital, Cork, in 2006.

Gill cannot walk, has dyskinetic cerebral palsy, and is in a wheelchair. He cannot talk but can signal with his eyes.

He goes to school every day and is in junior infants in a mainstream school, all thanks to the fighting spirit of his mother. She says he is “a smart kid who is locked in”.

She wept in the High Court yesterday as the HSE and Cork University Maternity Hospital said they were “truly sorry” and sincerely apologised for the pain and distress experienced by Gill and his family as a result of his delivery and care.

The legal fight may be all but over, but for Karen it will be another two years before she can finally shut the door on the battle.

She told Ms Justice Mary Irvine it had been “a tough few years, a rollercoaster which was mentally and physically exhausting”. “I could go on all day about how awful it has been; it takes a lot of energy to fight his corner in court,” she said.

She said it felt like she had to “jump through hoops” but she was now very happy Gill will be cared for into the future.

The benefit of the full settlement will not be seen until two years’ time, when the full value of the damages is assessed.

Only then will Karen get her wish — to be just a mother and not also a tired full-time carer.

Only then will she be able to focus on her next battle — making sure Gill fulfils all his dreams and ambitions. Ring-fenced in the settlement was an assessment in two years on future care to include the promise of a home in Cork City where Gill, as an adult, hopes to live independently and attend university.

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