€25 million for man left blind and unable to walk after hospital’s lack of action despite parents’ warnings

four courts, dublin

16 December 2021

A man who, as a teenager ended up blind and unable to walk after he went to Cork University Hospital (CUH) with a brain shunt problem, has settled a High Court action for €25million.

Conor McCormack’s counsel told the court that in the hospital nothing was done for three weeks. As a result, Mr McCormack suffered a devastating brain injury which left him blind.

Liam Reidy SC, instructed by solicitor Ernest Cantillon, said Mr McCormack’s mother was “dancing up and down” looking for help.

Sandra McCormack told Mr Justice Paul Coffey how her pleas for help in the hospital went unanswered.

Her now 23-year-old son – who had a brain shunt inserted when he was a baby – was brought to CUH after collapsing at his home in Douglas, Co Cork, 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,” she said.

“We were all so distraught that our cries for help went unanswered.”

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.

He now needs assistance with all activities necessary for daily living.

Mr McCormack’s counsel, Liam Reidy SC, told the court that the problem with the 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 Mr McCormack’s treatment in the hospital was “nothing short of appalling”. Counsel said Mr McCormack remained without consultant cover for three weeks despite all the pleas of his mother.

“It was a nightmare for her,” he said.

The court was told the HSE had in November this year, in a limited admission, accepted the management of the patient, when he was admitted to the hospital in 2014, fell below the acceptable standards of care.

Outside court, the McCormacks pleaded with doctors to listen to parents.

“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 Mr Cantillon, the McCormacks said they explained to the doctors their belief that there was a shunt malfunction. They added that a CT scan on October 8, 2014 showed there was a fault in the tubing.

“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.”

Mr McCormack, through his mother Sandra, sued the HSE over the care and treatment he received at CUH in 2014.

On October 7, 2014, he had a seizure at home and was admitted to the hospital where a CT scan showed the shunt tubing had disconnected and did not extend through the skull.

It was claimed, among other things, there was a failure to act promptly to warning signs and symptoms of intracranial pressure.

There was an 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.

There was 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 was also claimed there was a failure to surgically explore the shunt between October 9 and October 24, 2014, prior to Mr McCormack’s deterioration, which it was contended would have resulted in a better outcome for the teenager .

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Coffey conveyed his best wishes to Mr McCormack “and his remarkable parents”.

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