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HSE Found at Fault for Water on the Brain Injury to a Child

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has been found to be at fault for a water on the brain injury to a child after a three week hearing at the High Court.

When she was just three months old, Ava Kiernan started to develop the symptoms of hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”). Hydrocephalus is caused by spinal fluid “pooling” in the skull because it has failed to drain from the brain and is commonly diagnosed in children under the age of one year when a rapid expansion of the head´s circumference is identified.

Ava was examined by a public health nurse who measured her head in April 2008; however – despite the concern´s of her mother – the nurse failed to recall Ava for a second examination four weeks later, and a subsequent measurement of Ava´s head in September which could have identified water on the brain was performed incorrectly.

As a result of the nurse´s failure to act and the subsequent errors in her care, Ava has mental and physical disabilities which are likely to be permanent. Ava´s mother – Ruth Kiernan from Duleek in County Meath – made a claim for a water on the brain injury to a child on her daughter´s behalf, but the claim was contested by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the case was heard at the High Court by Mr Justice Kevin Cross.

After a court case that lasted three weeks, Judge Cross found in Ava´s favour. He said that if Ava had been recalled four weeks after the initial head measurement in April 2008, or the subsequent measurement of her head in September had been conducted correctly, Ava´s hydrocephalus would have likely been identified and the little girl (now seven years of age) referred to a specialist.

The judge continued that the hydrocephalus condition could have then been confirmed by a scan and treated by a shunt. Had this course of action been followed, Judge Cross concluded, Ava´s brain damage would not have occurred. The judge said that the public health nurse´s failure to act was “materially causative” to Ava´s condition and he adjourned the claim for a water on the brain injury to a child so that an assessment could be carried out to determine an appropriate settlement of compensation.

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