At Tozers we have for years been supporting families affected by Group B Strep (GBS) infection in babies who have come to us via Group B Strep Support.
In this article, written with a mother whose son suffered from a GBS infection shortly after birth, we look at what it is really like to bring a case where your child has been affected by GBS.
Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.
What is GBS?
- Group B Strep (GBS) is a common bacterium that lives in the bodies of 20% to 40% of women.
- Like many bacteria, GBS can be passed from person to person by skin-to-skin contact.
- Carrying GBS is not harmful to you and most women with GBS will have no symptoms, but it can affect your baby around the time of birth.
- Occasionally, however, GBS can lead to serious infection in new-born babies. Very rarely, it can also cause infection during pregnancy and before labour.
How can GBS infection affect babies?
- Most babies who come into contact with GBS during labour or around birth do not become ill.
- However, if you are carrying GBS, there is a small risk that your baby will develop an infection, in which case they can become very unwell or even die.
- Most commonly, in new-born babies GBS can cause:
- Sepsis – infection in the blood and other tissues
- Pneumonia – infection in the lungs
- Meningitis – infection in the lining of the fluid around the brain
- If untreated, GBS infection can make your baby very unwell. However with prompt treatment most babies will make a full recovery.
- Early detection and treatment are therefore vital.
What happened in this case?
- Our son Jack was born a happy and healthy baby in 2014 and was discharged home shortly after birth.
- At 2 days old, however, his condition changed. His breathing became abnormal, and he started grunting.
- After calling for advice Jack was taken to hospital but there was a delay in identifying a GBS infection, treating him with antibiotics, and escalating treatment.
- Jack survived but only just. He is now 9 years old but suffers from:
- Cerebral Palsy
- Developmental delay
- Impaired mobility and fine motor skills
- Left visually impaired
All of these problems were either caused or contributed to by the delay in starting antibiotics and escalating treatment.
As a result of his injuries, he is reliant upon his family for all aspects of his day-to-day life.
When did you decide to investigate bringing a claim?
We decided to bring about a claim for Jack when he was a few months old, because we were not satisfied with the treatment he had received.
Why did you decide to seek legal advice in relation to the treatment Jack received?
We decided to bring the claim after discussing his case with numerous health professionals. The more people we spoke to the clearer it was that they thought Jack’s treatment had been poor and delayed in its delivery.
One professional suggested that if he had been ‘on shift’ then the infection would have been treated much sooner than it was.
As a result, as a family, we then began researching GBS. This then led to us finding a family that had dealt with Tozers and their child’s claim for a delay in diagnosis of GBS. This subsequently led to us contacting Tozers about Jack and his treatment.
What advice would you give someone who is thinking about bringing a claim?
To make contact with Tozers as soon as you can.
We were afraid of the process; it is very daunting when you are considering making a claim. However, Tozers made us feel very comfortable discussing our concerns and experience.
Our advice would be to always keep records and trust your own judgement. If you think that something went wrong act on it.
What difference has bringing a claim made to your lives?
Making a claim has made a huge difference to our lives and most importantly will for Jack’s future. As a result of the negligence, Jack has been left with significant needs and will need lifelong care, equipment and support.
We now have peace of mind that Jack’s needs can be met and that he will get all the support he needs for the rest of this life.
What does life look like now for you, and what are your future ambitions?
Life at this time is very busy with numerous appointments to assess Jack’s needs. That being said, we understand the purpose of these so that Jack’s needs can be met appropriately, giving him the best quality of life possible once his case is concluded.
How have you found the experience of bringing a claim for Jack?
Without doubt, this has been a stressful 8 years.
However, we have been supported by Tozers impeccably.
There has been a lot of uncertainty in our lives to date in the sense of how we can best care for Jack. This now feels like it is easing and we have plans in place for his ever-changing needs and the adaptations that need to be made to accommodate him.
What do you wish the public knew about GBS and those affected by it?
We wish we had known more about GBS.
The signs and symptoms were never once even mentioned to us, until the point where Jack nearly lost his life.
GBS has left Jack and our family with a life sentence of ‘what if’s’.
That said, we are very grateful that he is still with us and brings so much joy to our lives.
He has battled day to day with illness and subsequent health issues as a result of negligence by those you should be able to trust.
Those few critical hours where Jack was left untreated have changed the path of his and our family’s life forever.
The emotional harm and trauma are unrepairable.
We would love for GBS to be more widely discussed during pregnancy so that women can make an informed choice about whether they are tested for GBS.
Still, 9 years after Jack’s GBS diagnosis, maternity services are reluctant to offer tests or even information about GBS.
Would you recommend Tozers to bring a GBS claim?
We would recommend Tozers over and over again to as many people as we can.
They have been invaluable to us and we could never thank them enough. They have always provided a professional service whilst maintaining a warm and friendly approach to Jack’s case.
They have recognised that despite his disabilities, Jack is a person who has emotions and feelings.
They have always been so helpful with the claim and the subsequent complexities of information and the formal claims process; something that was alien to us prior to Jack’s birth.
Once again, we can only thank you as it really means a lot for Jack and our family.
How can Tozers help?
For any further information, or for advice on bringing a claim please contact our dedicated medical negligence legal experts.