December 9 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
The parents of a “cheeky, happy and very loving” Norwich girl who suffered brain damage at birth have talked for the first time about how an £8.1m High Court settlement will guarantee the care she needs for the rest of her life.
The High Court judge who approved the settlement was full of praise for the way Mr and Mrs Atkins had looked after Amber and her five-year-old sister Millie.
Mrs Justice Swift said: “It is no doubt attributeable to their care that Amber is such a happy and fulfilled little girl. Whilst they can in no way compensate Amber for all she has lost, I hope that the damages will provide her and her family with the best possible quality of life in the future.”
Mr Atkins described Amber as “cheeky”, and added: “She is bubbly and very happy, very smiley. She loves friends coming around. She is very sociable and very loving.”
His wife added: “She is quite an emotional little girl as well. She does get quite upset if things happen.”
For a long time after Amber’s birth the couple said they would not have another child, but later changed their minds. Mrs Atkins said it was “one of the best things we have done”.
She said: “[Millie] is such a character and she gives us normality. When you are tired or fed up they will do something together and make you laugh. They do wind each other up and sometimes I just want them to go to bed, but that’s just like any family. We have got a really good relationship.”
Jason and Lyn Atkins said last week’s award for 11-year-old Amber will end years’ of battling NHS bureaucracy for treatment, applications to charities for vital equipment, and fundraising efforts by family and friends.
Staff at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital failed to pick up signs Amber was in increasing distress when her mother went into labour in May 2002, resulting in oxygen starvation in the final few minutes before her birth.
The court heard had that although Amber has retained a bright mind and strong personality, can express herself well and attends mainstream school, she has been left dependent on her parents’ care as the cerebral palsy has affected all four of her limbs and left her in a wheelchair.
Mrs Atkins said: “We were originally told she might have a small balance problem, but within 18 months we realised there was a lot more to it.
“When we got the letter it came out of the blue and it said she had cerebral palsy. To me, never having known anyone with cerebral palsy, that just frightened the life out of me. I just saw it as a child with severe disabilities who would not have any control over their life, and really not have any quality of life because I did not know what that entailed.
“I rang Amber’s consultant and she said no two cases are the same, and it was just like, where do you go from here?”
The years that followed were a constant fight with the NHS to secure treatment, and trips to London for medical assessments and legal proceedings to secure the settlement.
“We have had to fight for absolutely everything Amber has. At some points we have thought ‘are we going to get this’,” Mrs Atkins said. “The funding on the NHS is so limited. The physio can want to do it, but they have not got the time or resources to help you with everything you need.”
The family had to move out of their council house in Mile Cross because it was not suitable, and now live in a bungalow in Brewers Court, where Amber can access all the rooms, and which includes a wet room for her to use.
Amber travels by taxi to City of Norwich School, which she started last month, and said that while her mother was scared for her, she was very keen to go.
For Amber’s mother, the court hearing was an unexpectedly emotional occasion: “I expected to get it over and done with and feel no different, but I could not believe it in court. I was crying. It was emotional to have it all over.”
Only a small portion of the settlement is compensation, with the majority made up of annual payments to ensure Amber receives the support she needs to cope with her disability for decades to come.
The money is overseen by a trust, and all payments will be reported to a court every year.
Mrs Atkins said: “If anything happens to me or Jason, that money would pay for 24-hour care. When she is older, she’s not going to want to be stuck to us. It will give her more ability to make her choices about what type of care she has.
“Although it’s been emotional and quite draining at times, and there are times when you think ‘I can’t do it any more’, you hoped that the outcome would be worth it and now it’s good to know there’s certainty for Amber’s future and we can hopefully get everything in place she wants.
“It’s not going to change our lives drastically, but it’s going to make it a bit easier to get everything we need for Amber and give her the most opportunities.”
In the short term, the award will fund physiotherapy to try new exercises to improve Amber’s strength, and a new bed. It also means they will no longer have to worry about affording new anti-suffocation pillows for the fits she sometimes has at night.
The family said they wanted to thank everyone who had helped them over the years, but especially their solicitor Julian Hayes, of Howes Percival Solicitors, who worked with them since 2006 to secure last week’s settlement.