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Medical Negligence Lawsuit Filed Against Alta Bates and Kaiser Oakland on Behalf of Baby Brain Damaged By Kernicterus

September 26, 2008

Five years ago today, Kim and Thomas Champion welcomed their healthy daughter, Jessie, into the world. Within days of birth, Jessie developed severe jaundice, a common, but potentially life-threatening, condition when left untreated. Her doctors failed to test and treat her jaundice, which developed into kernicterus, a preventable, lifelong, debilitating, neurological syndrome. Jessie now suffers from numerous disabilities including quadriplegic cerebral palsy, severe motor skills impairment, and hearing and speech dysfunction.

Today, on her fifth birthday, a lawsuit (Action No. RG-08-412032) was filed in Alameda Superior Court alleging that Alta Bates Summit Medical Center (Alta Bates), Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center (Kaiser Oakland) and others were medically negligent for failing to diagnose and treat Jessie’s severe newborn jaundice. The suit seeks compensation for lifelong medical care and special needs.

“This tragedy was an unnecessary and completely avoidable medical complication that only occurs in cases of medical negligence. Jessie was visibly jaundiced within the first two days of her life, and her doctors noted it on her medical records but failed to conduct a simple, inexpensive blood test that would have identified her elevated bilirubin level and allowed for timely treatment to reverse this toxic process entirely,” said Cynthia McGuinn, Jessie’s attorney and a senior trial lawyer at The Veen Firm. “Now, due to her medical providers’ negligence, this once healthy baby girl is celebrating her fifth birthday brain damaged and severely disabled, relegated to a wheelchair and completely dependent upon others for all aspects of her care.”

“Our community, simply can’t stand for another healthy child to become completely disabled from an easily detectable, treatable and totally reversible condition,” McGuinn added.

The medical negligence suit alleges that Jessie’s doctors missed four opportunities to intervene and prevent her worsening brain damage. Her jaundice was visible within the first 48 hours of her life and was brought to the attention of and noted by Alta Bates, which, at the time, was under contract with Kaiser Oakland to handle births. Medical providers failed to consider the unreliability of visual jaundice assessments in dark-skinned newborns and allowed Jessie to be discharged without a blood test – known as a baseline total serum bilirubin test – or any treatment for jaundice and without explaining the potential complications of untreated jaundice or signs that might indicate problems to her parents.

According to court documents, the day after discharge, Jessie’s jaundice became more severe, and her parents rushed her to Kaiser Oakland where medical treatment was further delayed by medical personnel’s failure to adequately obtain and promptly test Jessie’s blood. Kaiser sent Jessie and her parents home to wait for results that were never determined, and the Champions were forced to return to Kaiser for a second blood test, which demonstrated a life-threatening bilirubin level.

After the second blood test was processed and Jessie’s excessive bilirubin level identified, medical providers instructed the Champions to drive their daughter to Alta Bates hospital during rush hour traffic. The suit alleges that, despite the medical providers’ knowledge of Jessie’s dire situation and rapidly worsening brain damage, no ambulance was provided. The failure to transport Jessie to Alta Bates via ambulance and failure to administer immediate medical attention upon discovering that she had a critical bilirubin level were unacceptable treatment delays that increased the severity of her injuries. Once readmitted, the hospital took more than four and half hours to start the blood work required for treatment of Jessie’s condition, yet another delay that allowed the situation to worsen according to the complaint.

About The Veen Firm

The Veen Firm focuses on recovering damages for the catastrophically injured and has since 1975. The firm specializes in catastrophic injury, construction accident, legal malpractice, medical malpractice, negligence, premises liability, product liability, toxic exposure and wrongful death cases. On the Net: www.veenfirm.com




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