Following an approval hearing last week for an interim settlement agreed with Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, 15-year old Becky Tyler spoke out on the BBC about what it is like living with cerebral palsy.
“I can’t sit up on my own. I can’t stand up, balance or walk," she said via eye gaze technology. "I find it hard to eat. And I cannot talk with my mouth. I have to rely on my family and personal assistants to help with everyday tasks. I find it hard to make friends because I cannot talk and people speak to me like I'm a baby."
In 2002, Becky's mother Fiona was under the care of the maternity team at East Surrey Hospital when Becky was born 'navy blue', with the umbilical cord wrapped three times around her neck. She was eventually resuscitated but did not breathe for 10 mins following her birth. After a traumatic week when Becky suffered seizures and was put into an induced coma, the consultant told her parents they had 'been lucky' and they could take Becky home. No MRI scan was given to ascertain possible brain damage.
Despite hoping for the best, parents Fiona and Steve sensed all was not well. Becky struggled to feed and her movements were not right, but their concerns were dismissed by their consultant. It wasn't until Becky was seven months' old that she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, which came as a complete shock to Fiona and Steve.
As she grew up, Becky’s disabilities developed in severity and it was soon clear she would never walk or sit up or talk. She was fitted with a gastrostomy at 20 months. Fiona, became her full-time carer, something she says she never ever resents, but admits is extremely hard.
“I’ve given everything of myself up. I gladly do it because I love her. But we have become isolated, lost friends, our social life, plans for another child, my career - all gone.
“I gladly give it up for Becky. I wouldn’t want her to think I regret any of that but it’s been hard.”
Five years ago, while learning about the human body at school, Becky came home and asked her mother why her brain was different from her classmates. The question prompted the Tylers to instruct Jane Weakley to investigate Becky's birth.
After beginning the investigation, Jane discovered that the trust had information about failings during the birth which had not been shared with her parents.
Having obtained medical expert reports and issuing proceedings in the High Court, Jane finally received acknowledgement from the trust that mistakes had been made, primarily with CTG monitoring. Jane's medical experts agreed that had doctors and midwives intervened and delivered Becky earlier, she would likely have been born uninjured.
The trust's acknowledgement paved the way to this week's interim settlement, which in turn opens the way to what will be a multi-million pound award to protect Becky for life.
Steve said that the pressure of the financial responsibility had been extreme for years. Only when the news of the settlement came through did the huge weight of worry vanish from his shoulders.
"We know things can go wrong but it has been incredibly frustrating being denied information all this time," he said.
Using eye gaze technology, originally paid for by the family's church, Becky spoke out on BBC2's Victoria Derbyshire, saying that although she was very excited about the future, she was angry about what happened to her brain at the hospital and 'disgusted' that her mother had been blamed.
Asked about her wish list for the interim settlement, Becky said she would like a new teenage voice for her communicator that better conveyed her character. She also said that arriving at the Royal Courts of Justice this week 'felt like Harry Potter going into Hogwarts for the first time'.
Letter of apology
At the hearing, Judge HHJ Robinson said that he was 'very happy' to approve the award to provide for Becky's needs. He also gave Becky his wig to try on (pictured).
The defence, representing the hospital trust, described Becky as having 'remarkable guts and loving parents who also have remarkable guts and determination'.
Jane Weakley confirmed that she has now also received a letter of apology from the hospital trust which she said was incredibly important to the Tylers.
Jane will now proceed with the settlement, which has been agreed at 90 per cent by the trust.
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