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Dad wins $6m medical negligence suit

 Michelle Loubon
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Flanked by his son Jared, Valencia resident Brian Nurse shares a father/son bonding moment with his other son Jerrend—who has been stricken with cerebral palsy due to hospital negligence. Photo:Abraham Diaz

A mere week before Father’s Day, Valencia resident Brian Nurse is basking in a medical victory on behalf of his beloved twin sons Jared and Jerrend. Nurse created history when he successfully challenged the State over hospital negligence—and won a landmark $6.4 million. To date, he has been paid $1.6 million.
The red letter day was December 13, 2010. In a nutshell, Nurse’s wife Gillian Nichols gave birth to a healthy baby Jared and Jerrend—who is stricken with cerebral palsy. Nurse cast the blame solely at the feet of the ERHA (Eastern Regional Health Authority) and the medical team at the Sangre Grande Hospital. They were responsible for the botched delivery on September 26, 2002. While doting on Jerrend, whom he affectionately calls JJ, Nurse said: “It’s an historical breakthrough. This matter was in court. It finally came to a decision to award $6.4 million. They are saying they are going to appeal the case because it is too much. “It’s a landmark. In all the history, they have never paid $6.4 million for negligence in the hospital.”

An arduous journey
Although there’s talk about imminent moves to appeal the judgment due to the exorbitant sum, it does not sway Nurse in the least. He is not the least fazed by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan’s plan to probe it since he has the protection of his “Guardian angel”, attorney Lydia Mendonca. Nurse added: “The judge decided they can’t appeal it. They are probing in the sense. When they tried to appeal it, it was thrown out. They wanted to appeal it for it to go over. He could prove they held up everything. They had signed up everything to say we would get the money in 28 days. “My lawyer wrote them and let them know it was consented and they can’t appeal it. They tell us they would give us it (the sum).” Although he may have finally gotten financial compensation, Nurse noted it was an arduous journey.  Using the analogy of a road, he said: “It was real steep. I had to climb up and down.” Asked what advice he would give to citizens saddled with a similar situation, Nurse said: “You must have the courage of your convictions. Stand up and fight. Don’t just bend over to those in authority. Don’t give up. No matter what obstacle. Just hold on.” Patting himself on the back, Nurse said the landmark settlement was fait accompli. “Hope had its place eight years ago. Behind that dark cloud is the silver lining.”

Joy turns to sorrow
As though it were yesterday, Nurse related the train of events which led to his victory against the State. Transporting himself to the Sangre Grande Hospital, Nurse remembered the fateful day with a tender mix of joy and sadness. At times, he paused; revisiting the experience etched in his mental archives. Like contemporary writer David Lawrence, he often rationalises “ours is a tragic age.” No doubt, Nurse is proud and fond of his boys. But there is the constant reminder Jared, a student at Sacred Heart Boys’ RC, is enjoying  perfect health. On the flip side, Jerrend can neither walk or talk. Based on his debilitating condition, they feel JJ’s life expectancy is 20 years.

Sequence of events
Nurse recounted the series of events during that tragic time. September 26, 2002—Gillian began experiencing labour pains. He rushed her to the Sangre Grande Hospital. They put her on a wheelchair and took her inside the women’s ward. He kept pacing; heart palpitating; excited at the prospect of being a first-time father. “I was listening to hear my children born so I could rejoice. “I silently prayed they would be born on the same day. I did not want them to celebrate their birthdays one day apart,” he said. 8 pm—Nurse heard a little crying. It was Jared. “After, I didn’t hear another cry. Maybe about half an hour to an hour I heard somebody bawl out ‘one for Caesarean.’” Nurse got nervous. He start to walk hoping everything would be all right. “I don’t know if JJ was ‘stuck.’” The doctor emerged. He said: “You have a beautiful boy and the other one breached. We have nobody here to perform the C-section.” It was the best of times. It was the worse of times. Fear coiled in him.  “Everything you hear about honourable minister went out the door. I felt cheap,” Nurse said.He hoped the doctor would do his best to deliver the second child.

Child diagnosed with cerebral palsy
Ten minutes lapsed—Nurse paid Nichols a brief visit. He never forgot the pitiful sight of mother and child.
She was in excruciating pain. He felt powerless. “I saw how her belly was big and round. Everything went down. He will never forget the image of the unborn JJ. His instinct told him all was not well. “JJ just print out on her stomach. The whole skin like it suck into him. I watched that and I said this is not right. “They just “stuff” her (blocked the vaginal passage) and left her there.” Nurse placed his hand on her stomach and said a silent prayer. A tear rolled down his cheek. During that time, a pushing trolley popped by. He went outside. Rain fell and breeze blew. She was placed on the trolley and pushed into emergency (about 100 yards away). 11:53 pm—A nurse carrying a green blanket approached.

Nurse uncovered it. JJ looked dazed out. He was just there. Again, Nurse had the niggling feeling something was amiss. “I just watched and I sat there thinking everything was not right. Nobody came and said anything about the procedure. That was it for the night.” September 27—Everyone was transferred to Mt Hope Medical Hospital. JJ spent three weeks, Jared one. No breastfeeding. Nurse sought the help of his friends and family to get four pints of blood for her. She had slipped in and out of consciousness. October—Everybody was discharged from hospital. JJ was weak. They kept treating him at Mt Hope Clinic.
“Something with his brain. “They told us he had cerebral palsy.”

Nurse disturbed at the unfortunate turn of events
“Days and months everything was good…like Jared. They said lack of oxygen could cause a child to get brain damage.” October 2003—Nurse vowed not to rest until he had gotten justice. Like a raging bull, he said: “That image of JJ printed out on Nicole’s stomach stayed with me. I decided I would not take it lightly.”

Lawyers come and go
October 2003—Ignorant to legal machinations, Nurse sought help from Legal Aid. Nurse said: “I had no idea where to start. I had never done anything involving the law like that. A kind lady told me to go to Hugh Wooding Law School. There are young lawyers who are hungry for a case. I met Alan Chad. I gave him all the information. He never called.” Nurse realised he had to change his modus operandi. He began pounding the pavement to get doors opened. He was protesting with his children. People stared. “I went on 102FM and told my story. Sir Charles took me to see Elvis O’Connor. He told me he wanted $6,000 to start the case. He said, ‘You could get about $11 million.’” When they began talks at Sangre Grande, O’Connor was present. He was told in situations like that they give $250,000 or $500,000. He said: “‘Boy, all you better accept that.’” When Nurse got home that evening, he wrote O’Connor a letter and told him his services were no longer needed. “I felt like I was going mad.” Nurse continued canvassing support for his cause.
“I would take their pram and put in my car. I would push them.” He got an audience with Gladiator—who placed a call to former minister of Health, John Rahael. “He stepped out of the meeting and never watched me.”

He took his protest outside Stollmeyer’s Castle. He said: “Herbert Atwell (the former adviser to former prime minister, Patrick Manning) told me to write a letter and he would take it to Rahael. I did the letter. He took it to Rahael. I never got a chance to see Rahael. He wrote back and said the matter would be investigated. I kept going upstairs to see Rahael but I never saw him.” As the clock ticked, Nurse strengthened his resolve to champion JJ’s cause. Another former minister of Health, Jerry Narace stayed in his car when he spotted him. He enlisted the services of attorney cum Attorney General Anand Ramlogan. A beacon of light shone through. Nurse said: “Ramlogan said he would give the ERHA 28 days to respond. At first he was so passionate…he was full of conviction.  He said down in his office, ‘yes, this chupidness has to stop.’  To get proper compensation, I was so joyful. I know Ramlogan winning case.”
A sharp bend surfaced. “My whole spirit flagged. He (Ramlogan) said, ‘Doctors don’t go against doctors.’” Next he approached senator/attorney Fitzgerald Hinds. Hinds didn’t appear at times. Nurse said: “The judge bawl at us—my wife was crying—we will get this matter out.” One day, Hinds surfaced. “I fired him in front of the magistrate.”

Lydia Mendonca to the rescue
As though the heavens heard his cries for justice, he got in contact with Mendonca. She was the panacea to his prayers and protests. Relying on the Biblical scripture, he said: “Don’t be forgetful to entertain strangers because whereby some have entertained angels.” Nurse said: “I wanted a woman to do this case. “That lady was a blessing. She was like a Guardian angel. She saw trouble and trouble it and went right back. She just handle it right. She lifted my spirit. Family at peace now. She did her job and went back to heaven.”  December 13, 2010—Nurse learned he would get the money.  They had put off the case about 28 times. I am not a superstitious person. I said: “Is just so case does end.” He maintains it was not about the monies. “I am a believer in God. Jared can never play football or cricket with his brother. I have to fight for justice and truth.”

Extracted From: Trinidad Guardian Newspaper

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