One of the biggest fears to face any prospective parent is that they will see a look of serious contemplation on the face of their doctor that can only lead to the conclusion they have found something wrong with their child. When someone asks a pregnant woman, “What do you hope it is?” the response is usually the same: “I don’t care as long as it’s healthy.” But, unfortunately, not every child is born healthy. Every year, many births are complicated by either birth traumas and injuries or birth defects. What should be one of the greatest moments of a parent’s life can quickly turn to a nightmare when this is the diagnosis.
Cerebral Palsy is one such birth defect. It is important to understand this birth defect and how it differs from other birth traumas. Cerebral Palsy (CP) is one of a series of birth defects that affects 120,000 newborns each year. However, many people do not understand that it is sometimes preventable. Only about 3 children have Cerebral Palsy for every 1,000 that are born. That means there is a 0.3% chance that a child will have CP. However, it is the most common single disability in the country with approximately 17 million people having CP. If a child has one of the four types of CP (ataxic, dyskinetic, spastic, and mixed), then he or she will have a variety of symptoms including problems with balance, speech, movement, and posture. CP affects the parts of the brain that help with muscle control and can lead to difficulty moving, speech and hearing issues, and even seizures. Although not every child with CP has learning disabilities, many have difficulty in school because of problems with writing and doing other tasks that require fine motor skills.
Although about 90% of the children with Cerebral Palsy develop the condition pre-birth as a result of a birth defect, about 10% of the cases are caused by birth trauma. In these cases, the condition is caused by a lack of oxygen to the baby during the birth process. When this occurs, the child incurs a type of brain damage as the parts of the brain actually die permanently. Once again, the affected area in these cases involves the parts of the brain that regulate muscle control.
There are many myths and misconceptions about cerebral palsy besides the idea that it is only caused by a prenatal birth defect. Many people also think that children with CP will never be able to walk or speak normally. This is not the case as many children eventually learn to walk (albeit sometimes with the aid of braces) and most can communicate fully, if not with some minor slurring of speech. The key here is physical and speech therapy to help the child overcome the condition and retrain the muscles that have been affected. Another myth is that a child born with CP will not be able to live as full a life as a healthy counterpart. This is a total fabrication. Millions of people are living full and happy lives with CP and that is why it is so important to recognize Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, to help dispel these rumors and show people that a diagnosis of CP does not have to be so horrid.
Unfortunately, because cerebral palsy can be caused by human error, particularly on the part of medical staff, it is important for parents of children with CP to be aware of their rights. If you are in this situation, contact the birth injury attorneys at Wolf & Pravato to schedule a free consultation to review your case.
Updated March 24, 2017