Mother tells High Court of her fight for wheelchairs from HSE for her brain-damaged daughter

Emily's mother said: “the world was not made for people like Emily".
Mother tells High Court of her fight for wheelchairs from HSE for her brain-damaged daughter

Mr Justice Paul Coffey allowed the immediate pay-out of funds for a new wheelchair for Emily. File picture

A mother has told a High Court judge how she had had to fight the HSE for therapies and even wheelchairs for her brain-damaged daughter who cannot speak, has cerebral palsy and is spastic quadriplegic.

“It’s a shambles, our daughter Emily has been badly let down, The HSE has been very lax. It would be an injustice to Emily not to say it and I appreciate you listening to me,” she told Mr Justice Paul Coffey in the Four Courts.

The mother, Ann O’Connor Ahearne, was speaking in court as her 11-year-old daughter Emily settled a High Court action over the management of her birth at Waterford Regional Hospital with a €1.9 million interim payout for the next five years. The settlement, which was reached after mediation and is without an admission of liability, the court heard represents 45% of her claim.

Ms O’Connor Ahearne, who with her husband Liam Ahearne looks after her daughter every day and night, said it has been very hard. “She has been through every crack imaginable with the HSE fighting for wheelchairs, physiotherapy, and other therapy.

Judge Coffey who called Ms O’Connor Ahearne an extraordinary person said she and her husband had “gone through hell”.

The judge said he hoped the resolution of the legal proceedings would bring the couple “serenity that you have achieved everything you could in the legal process.” He said the settlement was an excellent one and he allowed the immediate pay-out of funds for a new wheelchair for Emily, a special adapted car and a new home for the family.

Emily O’Connor Ahearne who lives outside Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, had through her mother Ann O’Connor Ahearne sued the HSE over the management of her birth at Waterford Regional Hospital on June 2, 2011. 

Ms O’Connor Ahearne had attended the hospital in early labour on June 2, 2011. It was claimed there was an alleged failure to respond to signs of foetal distress and the mother had been allegedly allowed to labour once meconium had appeared.

There was, it was claimed, an alleged failure to have any adequate regard to the findings of the CTG trace which monitors the baby’s heart and which the O’Connor Ahearne side alleged was pathological at one stage. All the claims were denied.

Liability

The family’s counsel, Liam Reidy SC with Michael Counihan SC, told the court liability was very much at issue in the case. He said it was their case that the CTG trace allegedly showed pathological which would require an immediate caesarean section. 

He said it was their case the baby should have been delivered immediately. A fetal scalp blood test, he said, was reassuring and the HSE contended that it was a standard followed by many hospitals.

However, counsel said his side would have to concede a significant event occurred in-utero before arrival at the hospital unbeknown to the mother, but the O’Connor Ahearne side contended it was allegedly made worse by allowing the labour to continue.

Emily, he said, has a severe intellectual disability and is PEG-fed and cannot speak but she “bosses everyone in her own non-verbal way”. Ms O’Connor Ahearne said her daughter is the “queen of the house”, is very social and loves being out and about, but she said: “the world was not made for people like Emily".

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