Girl left paraplegic after operation settles case for €9.4m

Mr Justice Kevin Cross in the High Court was told the case was a very complex one and the settlement is without admission of liability.
Girl left paraplegic after operation settles case for €9.4m

Aimee Brennan with her mother Jacinta leaving the High Court following legal action against Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin, Dublin. Picture: Collins Courts

A 12-year-old girl, who it is claimed is paralysed from the chest down after an operation for curvature of her spine, has settled her High Court action for €9.4m.

Aimee Brennan had the operation at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, Dublin, when she was six years old. The little girl who has paraplegia now has to use a wheelchair.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross in the High Court was told the case was a very complex one and the settlement is without admission of liability.

Aimee’s counsel, Liam Reidy SC, told the court the little girl who had curvature of the spine had an independent life before the operation. The surgery, he said, was necessary as Aimee was not breathing properly.

Counsel said the surgery involved the insertion of an anchor system and implants along the spine using pedicle screws. It was their case the screws had been allegedly misplaced.

He said an updated MRI scan would have provided a road map for the surgery.

The hospital denied all the claims and contended the screws did not cause damage and the injuries could have been explained by a stroke which is a known complication of this type of surgery.

Aimee’s mother Jacinta told the court Aimee is a great child. “She has been through so much but always has a smile on her face,” she said.

In an affidavit to the court, Mrs Brennan said her daughter was never able to walk again after the operation and she has no power or sensation from below chest level.

Aimee Brennan of Wolfhill, Co. Laois, had through her mother Jacinta Brennan sued Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, Dublin.  It was claimed that Aimee had a necessary operation on September 29, 2014, during which she was allegedly caused to suffer an injury to her spinal cord resulting in paraplegia.

Case background

Aimee after she was born in 2008 had to have spine casting and bracing and had her first spinal surgery when she was a few months short of her fourth birthday.

Other surgery followed and the little girl in August 2014 was admitted to the Dublin hospital for four weeks of gravity traction in preparation for her spinal surgery.

It is claimed that in early September her parents were informed of a new device from the United States which could be used to treat Aimee’s condition. The Brennans, it was claimed, were told the person who designed the new anchor type system would attend the surgery.

Three days before the operation Aimee’s mother was informed the curve of the spine was very severe and was causing pressure on Aimee’s lungs and the operation was needed to save her life.

It is claimed no risks or alternative options to the proposed surgery were mentioned to Mrs Brennan.

The surgery was performed on September 29, 2014, and Aimee returned from the operation still on traction and was admitted to the intensive care unit. Her father Alan stayed with her overnight and noticed Aimee complained of pins and needles in her legs at about 4.30am.

A nursing note of 6am recorded that Aimee was not complying with requests to move her lower limbs. An urgent MRI scan was carried out and the little girl was brought back to theatre where a hematoma was evacuated during an operation which lasted over six hours.

The claims against the hospital

It is claimed in relation to the main operation there was alleged negligence in adopting a surgical strategy which was not allegedly indicated and which did not allow for more conservative approaches to Aimee’s condition.

There was, it was further claimed, an alleged failure to inform the mother adequately or at all of the material risks of the proposed surgery.

There was, it was also claimed, an alleged failure to carry out pre-operative advanced imaging to present a road map to guide the placement of critical high-risk implants in surgery. The claims were denied.

Aimee had a very difficult time after the operations and suffered pain and discomfort. She wasn't discharged from the ICU until October of that year and discharged home in mid-December..

She had to go to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in February 2015 and was there until May of that year.

Aimee’s mother told the court her daughter continues to get excellent care in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital.

Approving the €9.4 million settlement, Mr Justice Kevin Cross said it was a very good one.

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