Hypoxic Ischaemic Encephalopathy (HIE) Awareness Day 4 April 2023
The Child Brain Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp, represent children and families whose lives have been impacted by hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy (HIE).
We are therefore proud to raise awareness of HIE today, and to shine a spotlight on the wonderful work done by Peeps, a UK charity dedicated to supporting families affected by HIE.
What is HIE?
HIE is a brain injury which happens when the brain does not receive enough oxygen or blood flow for a period of time.
What causes HIE?
In our Child Brain Injury team, we see many different causes of HIE in babies; these include but are not limited to:
- The placenta coming away from the uterus wall ‘placental abruption’
- The baby getting stuck during a vaginal delivery
- A prolonged labour
- A tear in the uterus
Each mechanism impacts the oxygen and/or blood flow to the baby’s brain, resulting in an injury to the baby’s brain.
How serious is HIE?
HIE is typically graded as mild, moderate or severe, depending on the child’s presentation.
To inform the grading process, doctors consider factors such as how irritable, sleepy, floppy or stiff the baby is, and if they are having unusual movements or seizures. MRI imaging is often used later, in the days after delivery to help assess the extent of any damage to the baby’s brain.
The grade of HIE typically indicates the type of treatment your baby will need; and in appropriate cases the baby may be ‘cooled’. This is a process where the baby’s body temperature will be reduced for a period of 72 hours to try and limit the spread and extent of damage.
In the same way every child is unique, every child with HIE has a unique presentation with different strengths and challenges to face. We see a very wide range of injuries from children who sustained HIE, from children who are mobile, independent in their care needs and are likely to have capacity as adults, to children who are entirely reliant on others for all of their needs and have particularly complex medical conditions.
The common thread running through each family is the trauma, and worry, that a diagnosis can bring regardless of grading. Fortunately, there are a number of excellent charities who provide support to families who find themselves in this position.
What can PEEPS do to help?
Peeps is a UK charity dedicated to raising awareness of HIE and to providing support for families affected by HIE through providing information packs, funding for counselling, and other essentials. They will soon be launching their new Peer Support Programme, allowing even more families to access support from those with lived experience.
Such support is crucial for supporting families at the start of this difficult journey. Learning that your baby has HIE can be a hugely confusing, distressing and traumatic time. It can also be incredibly lonely. Charities like Peeps help people find a community of other families affected by similar circumstances, which for many can feel like a lifeline.
Moreover, the personal experience the founders of Peeps have with HIE shines through everything they do, and means that empathy and understanding is available from the outset and throughout.
What can Bolt Burdon Kemp do to help?
At Bolt Burdon Kemp we are passionate about helping our clients flourish and achieve the best quality of life; helping parents secure early support and intervention is a central part of this.
We act exclusively for children who have sustained brain injuries as a result of medical errors or accidents. If you are concerned about the treatment you or your baby received, and worry that their HIE diagnosis is a result of substandard medical care, contact our specialist solicitors on 020 7288 4800 without delay so that you can begin the process of investigating a potential claim.
If your child is entitled to compensation this can be used to fund private treatment and equipment and secure funds to meet their lifelong needs. There can be no better peace of mind.
Claudia Hillemand is a Partner at Bolt Burdon Kemp specialising in Child Brain Injury claims.