Case studies

Coping with epilepsy – a mother’s diary

The Penningtons Manches clinical negligence team is representing a young man (D) who suffered a birth injury that left him with hemiplegia, cognitive difficulties and intractable epilepsy. Liability for his injuries has been resolved and now we are investigating the extent of his needs to help provide him with a comfortable life and as much independence as he can manage in the future.

The epilepsy is by far the greatest concern. D has several types of epileptic seizures consisting of grand mal seizures, tonic seizures, simple partial seizures and drop attacks. He has seizures daily and often several in a day. He has had a vagal nerve stimulator implanted into his brain, which has partially improved his seizures. Despite his condition, D is described as delightful, cheeky and full of personality. His parents have done wonders in organising his life, getting him into a specialist college for epilepsy sufferers and generally caring for him as best as they can with very little respite over the years. In taking witness statements, we discussed the severity of D’s epilepsy with his parents and they produced a diary they had kept during his childhood. The following extracts bring to life what D and his family somehow cope with. 

The diary entry for 30 April 2004 reads: D’s seizure was started by a falling chair in the hall. 9.55am D able to walk into the classroom but very shaky and leaning heavily. D drifting in and out of seizures which lasted different lengths from 10 seconds to over a few minutes. Ticking tongue – pulling right hand at my arm. Gripping/pinching fingers. Afterwards very tired, yawning, slightly vacant and pale. 10.15am we rang for the ambulance. When they arrived D was still going in and out of seizures. Ambulance man gave D oxygen and monitored his heart rate. Left when D was stable and settled at 11-ish.

Here is a more recent diary entry: Now that D’s fits are so frequent, it is difficult to write as much about each of them and a typical day reads more like this. 7 September 2011 8.15am seizure activity, 15 seconds. 1 swipe of D’s vagal nerve stimulator. 8.19am as before. 10.35am 2 minutes of seizure activity. 11.20am D dropped forward while sitting down and wet himself. 2 minutes of seizure activity and  2 swipes.12.25pm self-swipe 1.30pm D slumped to the  left, needed 2 swipes and thankfully made a quick recovery. At 2.40pm D went blank, 2 swipes, 2 minutes of seizure activity and thankfully again a quick recovery. At 4.30pm head drop, 1 swipe, few seconds. At 5pm seizure activity 2 swipes. D said he was wet but continued with seizure activity for two more minutes. More jerks whilst on toilet, continued swiping – D was going in and out of seizure activity.  Then seizure activity on and off for a few seconds throughout the evening with jerks, absences, head drops and lip smacks. D in good mood but finding it hard to sustain any activity eg card game, gave up and watched TV. 8.30pm seizure activity with jumpy arm. D kept having seizure activity on and off up until 9.15pm. 

Although it is impossible to predict, it is unlikely that it will ever be possible to control D’s epilepsy better than currently. D remains at risk of life-threatening seizures and has already suffered injuries during falls. He will need safe, secure  accommodation, professional carers, therapies, aids and equipment and psychological support for the rest of his life. The parties to the claim are working together to quantify D’s needs and hopefully to be able to agree the level of damages to which he is entitled. 

The claim is being handled by Alison Johnson, senior associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches LLP in Basingstoke.

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