Tue | Sep 26, 2017

ANGUISH! - Family suffers, as State fights to deny them compensation for brain-damaged child

Published:Sunday | April 24, 2016 | 4:00 AMRyon Jones
Young Tajay Rowe seems to be listening intently as his mother Tasha Howell reads to him.
'What would I do to get a wheelchair', is what Tasha Howell is saying as she has to lift her son Tajay everywhere he needs to go.
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TAJAY ROWE will be 13 years old in three days, but he will not be able to celebrate this significant milestone like a normal teenager as he has not talked, walked, or been able to help himself in any way since birth.

Tajay’s brain was damaged at birth and a court has since ruled that this was caused by the result of negligence on the part of the staff at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital at the time of his birth.

His mother, Tasha Howell, who was 17 when she gave birth, successfully sued the State, but with the case having dragged on for nine years she is still unable to collect any of the $26 million in damages, which was awarded in September of last year.

That is because the Attorney General’s Department, which is representing the South East Regional Health Authority in the matter, has appealed the ruling.

According to Howell, she would love to be able to purchase a specially designed wheelchair for her son’s birthday and have money left over so that she will no longer have to struggle to purchase the medication he will need for the rest of his life.

HOW LONG?

But with the appeal process ongoing, Tajay’s family is wondering how much longer they will have to wait for the well-needed money.

“The last process took 12 years. How long is this going to take now?” asked Tajay’s grandmother, Yvonne Beckford, when she spoke with The Sunday Gleaner last week.

Attorney-at-law Alexander Williams, who is representing the family, also expressed disappointment with the length of time it has taken for the case to be wrapped up.

“We would have been prepared to listen to any reasonable offer of settlement long ago, but it was never forthcoming and they have taken the position that they are going to defend it to the end,” said Williams.

“This case came up for trial twice before it actually got started. One time, the defence was not ready and on the other occasion, the judge had to recuse himself because he knew one of the parties.

“And it’s a medical-negligence case, so there are a lot of orders that are made up to the time of trial where you are trying to get disclosure, discovery and medical evidence, and so on. So those are some of the factors that have contributed to the delay,” added Williams.

Despite the hold-up, Williams is very confident that the ruling of the lower court will be upheld, but that is not providing much comfort for Howell.

She noted that it has been a constant struggle to properly care for her son ever since he was discharged from the hospital.

“The lawyer keeps saying I don’t have to worry, everything will be fine, but I still have to worry because I want to know how long I have to wait for my son to get help; to at least have a little money to help out with his medication,” said Howell.

“Right now, he doesn’t have a wheelchair and he can’t sit up, so it has to be custom-made and I have been asking and there is no one to help. I have been using my hands to carry him since birth until now.”

According to Howell, after giving birth to Tajay at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital, he started crying incessantly, but despite asking medical officials to take a look at him, she was instructed to ‘just feed the baby’.

It was not until the following morning when a nurse finally took the baby to the nursery.

“There was a doctor there and she said ‘You need to look at this baby’. The doctor turned and said ‘she ‘couldn’t look now’, and I remember the nurse saying ‘you need to look at this child now’. So she (the doctor) got up and looked and I remember hearing her say something like ‘Oh my God!’ And she took the child and told me to go back to my room.”

Howell said to date she has received no explanation from the hospital as to what was wrong with the child, and was only asked to come back a week later for review.

“When I went back a week later, the only thing they asked me is if he was still shaking, and I asked, ‘What you mean still shaking?’ And they said ‘Don’t worry about that’.”

She said a couple of days after going home Tajay, whose father died in a car accident four months after he was born, took ill and had to be rushed to t he Bustamante Hospital for Children.

LATE DIAGNOSIS

“Is at Bustamante that we found out everything about what my son’s life would be like. They said he had cysts on several parts of his brain, so if they cut it out, he would be brain-dead, so it is best that they let it stay as is. When I asked what caused it they said lack of oxygen,” Howell shared.

But the Attorney General’s Department is appealing the ruling of the Supreme Court as it is adamant that the brain damage was not as a result of the hospital’s negligence.

“This is despite the fact that their own expert said that, yes, there was negligence in the aftercare of the infant. But saying at the same time that even if there wasn’t negligence there is nothing to show that there still wouldn’t be brain damage; that is essentially what they are saying,” explained Williams.

“So that is where we are, and it is so sad to see the family suffering because it is very expensive to maintain the child, in addition to the mental anguish I am sure mother and grandmother are going through,” added Williams.

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com