A man who as a teenager ended up blind and unable to walk after he went to Cork University Hospital with a brain shunt problem has settled a High Court action for €25 million.
Conor McCormack’s counsel told the High Court in the hospital nothing was done for three weeks and the teenager, as a result, suffered a devastating brain injury which left him blind.
Liam Reidy SC, instructed by Ernest Cantillon solicitor, said Conor’s mother was “dancing up and down” looking for help.
Conor’s mother Sandra McCormack told Mr Justice Paul Coffey how her pleas for help in the hospital went unanswered after her son, who had a brain shunt, was brought to Cork University Hospital after collapsing at his Douglas home in October 2014.
“Our lives were shattered after the events of 2014. Conor was in so much pain and it was so devastating to watch him lose his sight, hearing and mobility. We were all so distraught that our cries for help went unanswered,” she said.
The award, she told the judge, is bittersweet but it will allow the family to give Conor the life he deserves.
“He has experienced so much pain and loss in his young life, but he just accepts it. He is absolutely amazing. We are in awe of him,” she said.
She told the court her son is a most wonderful young man who has a wide range of interests and who is loved and adored by his family.
Conor’s counsel Liam Reidy SC told the court that the problem with Conor’s brain shunt remained undiagnosed and a diagnosis of tummy problems was made. The McCormacks, he said, had been told of the warning signs and symptoms in relation to shunt blockage when their son had to have a shunt inserted in his skull when he was one year old.
Mr Reidy said Conor’s treatment in the hospital was “nothing short of appalling.” Counsel said Conor remained without consultant cover for three weeks despite all the pleas of his mother. “It was a nightmare for her,” Counsel added.
He said that the HSE had in November this year in a limited admission accepted the management of Conor when he was admitted to the hospital in 2014 fell below the acceptable standards of care.
Conor McCormack (23) Frankfield, Douglas, Cork, had through his mother Sandra McCormack sued the HSE over the care and treatment he received at Cork University Hospital in 2014. Conor was born healthy in April 1998 but when he was one year old, he required a brain shunt for fluid on the brain.
On October 7, 2014, Conor had a seizure at home and was admitted to Cork University Hospital. A brain CT scan showed the shunt tubing had disconnected and did not extend through the skull.
The parents of Conor McCormack today pleaded with doctors to listen to parents when their children are ill.
Standing outside the Four Courts where their 23-year-old son had settled for €25 million an action against the HSE over his treatment when he went to Cork University Hospital in 2014, the McCormacks said their son had deteriorated before their eyes.
They said he now needs assistance with all activities of daily living.
"It need not have been this way.
"If we have one message to give to doctors it is to please listen to what the parents have to say about their child.
"They have important information to give and should be listened to,’ they said.
In a statement read out by their solicitor Ernest Cantillon, Kevin and Sandra McCormack from Douglas, Cork, said Conor had developed the symptoms of shunt malfunction they had been told to watch out for when the shunt was inserted when their son was one year old.
“We explained to the doctors that we believed that there was a shunt malfunction. Indeed, from an early stage the CT scan that was taken on October 8, 2014, showed there was a fault in the tubing.
"During the succeeding days we pressed for consideration to be given to the revision of the stunt which we were certain was blocked but nothing happened other than that Conor deteriorated before our eyes,” they said.
They added: “Prior to Conor’s admission we had a child who had eyesight and was able to walk. It took a further three weeks before action was taken to revise the shunt and we ended up with a child with challenges, and completely and utterly debilitated both physically and mentally. He was unable to walk and was blind.” They said they took Conor home and nursed him as best they could.
“After struggling for two years, we managed to get him to a position where he can now walk short distances. We were left without any support or help.”
After the pressure on Conor’s brain was reduced he managed to get the sight back in one eye, they said, but he remains totally blind in the other eye.
They said it has been a long battle to try and regain Conor’s health and it's also been a long legal battle.
"We are delighted that there will now be funds to pay for care to be provided for Conor so that we can go back to being his parents rather than his carers,” they said.
They thanked their other two sons Robert and Ross and extended families and their legal team who they said assisted them on their journey.
It was claimed there was an alleged failure to act promptly to warning signs and symptoms of intracranial pressure and the alleged failure to carry out surgery to correct the shunt caused over and above brain damage in the form of cortical blindness consistent with an acquired brain injury.
The standard of care Conor received from the HSE in Cork University Hospital at that time in 2014, it was alleged, fell below the acceptable standard and he sustained irreversible, over and above damage.
There was, it was contended, an alleged failure for three weeks to appreciate that a constellation of symptoms including rising blood pressure, increasing headache, drowsiness and seizure-like episodes were consistent with raised intracranial pressure due to shunt failure.
It is claimed a decision was taken not to have surgical intervention but on October 28, 2014, the teenager had reduced vision and right-sided weakness. The clinical impression, it was claimed, was that Conor’s symptoms were related to shunt malformation and he had a new shunt inserted.
Conor’s vision did not fully return following the surgery.
It was claimed that there was an alleged failure to consider shunt failure and an alleged failure to act promptly and that various warning signs and symptoms such as drowsiness, raised blood pressure, spasticity in the legs and loss of mobility - all of which pointed to raised intracranial pressure - were allegedly ignored.
It was further claimed there was a failure to have a consultant neurologist or neurosurgeon engage in face-to-face discussion with Conor’s parents and have regard to their concerns.
There was, it was claimed, a delay in inserting a shunt and Conor was allegedly left unattended through a weekend from October 24, 2018, to October 28, 2018, despite the deterioration in his symptoms.
It was also claimed there was an alleged failure to surgically explore the shunt between October 9 and October 24, 2014, prior to Conor’s deterioration which it was contended would have resulted in a better outcome for the teenager.
There was, it was alleged, a failure to act urgently or at all on Conor’s new neurological, symptoms from October 24, 2014, and the new symptoms included dilated pupils and increased blood pressure which it was claimed should have alerted clinicians to raised intra-cranial pressure.
Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Paul Coffey conveyed his best wishes to Conor “and his remarkable parents”.