My baby is brain damaged from meningitis – all because NHS won’t test pregnant women for common bug

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A MUM has been left devastated after her baby was left brain-damaged from meningitis – all because the NHS won’t test for a common bug.

Bethany Ford, 23, tested positive for group B strep when she went into labour with her son Grayson Harris and was not given antibiotics for the bacterial infection.

SWNS:South West News Service

Bethany has called for all pregnant women to receive an NHS test for group B strep after it left her son with a serious brain injury[/caption]

However, by the time the positive results came back she had already given birth to little Grayson who was admitted to a special care baby unit at Epsom Hospital in Surrey with meningitis.

He remained in the unit for two weeks, only for it later to emerge that he had a brain injury.

Now aged three, Grayson has global development delay which means he tends to be impulsive and can go from calm to angry very quickly.

The youngster has even self-harmed by pulling his own hair, struggles to sleep and has communication problems.

Bethany and her partner Keith Harris, 32, are now calling for all pregnant women to be tested on the NHS for group B strep between 35 and 37 weeks into their pregnancy so appropriate care plans can be put into place to stop the infection being transmitted from mums to their babies.

Bethany said: “The first few weeks of Grayson’s life were incredibly traumatic and no parent should have to see their child suffer and struggle in the way he did.

“It is also difficult to take that following his birth it seemed like the doctors did not initially think there was any cause for concern.

“The older Grayson gets the more we are noticing just how far behind other children his age he is.

SWNS:South West News Service

By the time Bethany’s results came back she had already given birth to Grayson who was admitted to a special care baby unit with meningitis[/caption]

What are the signs and symptoms of Group B Strep in babies?

Up to one third of GBS infections are late-onset, occurring after the baby’s first 6 days, usually as meningitis with sepsis. It is uncommon after a baby reaches one month old and very rare after age three months.

Typical signs of late-onset group B Strep infection are similar to those associated with early onset infection and may include signs associated with meningitis such as:

  • Being irritable with high pitched or whimpering cry, or moaning;
  • Blank, staring or trance-like expression;
  • Floppy, may dislike being handled, be fretful;
  • Tense or bulging fontanelle (soft spot on babies’ heads);
  • Turns away from bright light;
  • Involuntary stiff body or jerking movements; and/or
  • Pale, blotchy skin.

Currently there are no known ways of preventing late-onset GBS infections, so speedy identification of signs and symptoms of these infections is vital for early diagnosis and treatment. A vaccine is in development, but will take many years before it is available.

Source: GBSS

“We love Grayson so much and are determined to ensure that he gets the best from life. However, we think it is also vital that steps are taken to ensure that group B strep testing is undertaken a lot earlier than it was in our case.”

The couple are also investigating the possibility of taking legal action against the hospital where Grayson was born in December 2015, and its parent NHS trust.

Richard Kayser, medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said: “More than three years on from Grayson’s birth, Bethany and Keith remain understandably very concerned by the issues he has faced in his life so far.

“Everything possible must be done to prevent this infection in babies.”

Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust said it followed Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists guidelines in screening “at risk” women for group B strep.

SWNS:South West News Service

Grayson has global development delay which means he tends to be impulsive and can go from calm to angry very quickly[/caption]

SWNS:South West News Service

Grayson’s parents are investigating the possibility of taking legal action against the hospital where he was born[/caption]


Ramesh Ganapathy, clinical director of women and children’s services, said: “We fully recognise how serious and in some cases, devastating, it is when this bacteria spreads to a baby … we have agreed in principle to take part in a trial of universal screening for group B strep.”

NHS trials are under way at Nottingham university, involving 80 hospitals, into testing all pregnant women for strep B, either between 35 and 37 weeks or while in labour.

Providing antibiotics to pregnant women reduces the risk to the baby by 90 per cent.

Group B strep bacteria are present in one in five pregnant women and one in 1,750 UK newborns will develop a group B infection, one in 19 of these will die and one in 14 survivors will have a life-long disability.


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