Sunday 15 September 2019

'I knew as a parent that something was wrong with my baby' - Young boy left paralysed after meningitis treatment

The McGrath family at the Bruce Springsteen concert
The McGrath family at the Bruce Springsteen concert
Matthew (12) loves attending his second school
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

The mother of a young boy who was left paralysed after the hospital mistreated his meningitis, says that her son is thriving in education and is remarkably positive.

Matthew McGrath, now 12, received catastrophic injuries as a result of his treatment at Wexford General Hospital when he was a baby.

In the High Court in 2015, it was claimed there was a delay in treating him for meningitis and in particular with antibiotics.

It was further claimed that a lumbar puncture performed on the then 17-month old baby was contraindicated and as a result he suffered injury.

Tthe McGrath family sued the HSE and they were awarded €3.73million and was given an admission of liability and an apology from the hospital.

Mum Cathy, said that despite Matthew's medical challenges, he is "happy and active".

Matthew (12) loves attending his second school
Matthew (12) loves attending his second school

"Matthew is a happy young boy, he's doing really well. He's mad into rugby and goes to a lot of the games.

"Education is a really positive aspect to Matthew's life. When we first heard of his illness it was very hard to contemplate his future. We were told he would never walk or talk and we thought he would be confined to his bed.

"Matthew is now a second year student at the local mainstream school and he absolutely loves it. The school and the Department of Education have been amazing."

Cathy said that Matthew's favourite subject is PE and that his teacher has been great at incorporating him into the class.

"He can't move from his neck down but he can use his voice. His PE teacher lets him lead the class, shouting 'stop' and 'go' and he loves to race up and down in his wheelchair."

Despite the length court case and the devastating illness that threatened Matthew's life, Cathy said that their family remain positive.

"As a mother, you have to stay positive for your child. Thank God he goes to school and is very happy. He isn't angry and he doesn't have any blame because he was so young when it happened.

"He does get frustrated when he can't brush his teeth by himself but he lives with it."

The mother-of-three recalls the moment she knew that her only son was ill, despite doctors telling her he was fine.

"When Matthew became sick it was mismanaged from the beginning. I always wonder if we had brought Matthew to a different hospital, would things have turned out differently. But I can't go back in time and I don't blame anyone for Matthew getting meningitis."

At 17-months-old, Cathy knew something was wrong when Matthew became very weak.

"I took him to the doctor twice because he was lethargic. They should have done more. I knew as a parent that there was something wrong with my baby."

Cathy said that other than the lethargy, there were no signs that Matthew had meningitis.

"He didn't have a rash. I just knew something was wrong."

She said that she has noticed a huge difference between the Department of Education and the Department of Health.

"The Department of Education has been amazing. They made a special bathroom for Matthew to use and installed an overhead hoist. Matthew has a nurse and a SNA with him in school. There were never any problems and the school has done everything to include Matthew.

"The Department of Health is the opposite. We have to fight for everything that Matthew needs."

Fortunately for the family, the compensation they won in the High Court allows them to provide private care for Matthew.

"The compensation from our legal battle is sustainable and it will be reviewed every five years. We don't know what Matthew's life expectancy is. Going to court was a long struggle and the amount of money will never make up for what happened. You'd chose your child's health over the compensation any day.

"The compensation we won allowed us to take a step back from the health system and we can employ our own staff to look after Matthew 24/7. There is a shortage of nurses so sometimes myself and my husband have to step in and care for Matthew.

"Matthew needed two surgeries for his scoliosis and every day was a battle with the Department of Health. It was very draining having to fight every step of the way."

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