Dracut family wins $3.7M over errors at girl’s birth

Published by The Boston Herald, April 4, 2001

A severely disabled 11-year old Dracut girl won a $3.75 million settlement yesterday from a nurse who failed to recognize that she was going into fetal distress during labor and a doctor who didn’t get out of bed in time to perform an emergency C-section.

“Rather than come in and attend to her, he chose to stay at home,” said Andrew Meyer, attorney for Amanda Kukulski, who was born at Lowell General Hospital in November 1989.

Mary Jane Kukulski arrived at the hospital about 4 a.m. in labor and was examined by nurse Joan F. Hanks.

Hanks called Dr. Alan T. Kent, an obstetrician-gynecologist who was covering for Kukulski’s regular OB-GYN, and asked him to come in.

But Kent put it off and “went back to sleep,” Meyer said.

Kent’s failure to rush to the hospital has had a profound effect on Amanda, Mary Jane Kukulski said.

“As a result, Amanda has suffered,” her mother said. “No matter what, that will never change. No one can give back to her what has been taken away. ”

She said Amanda is in a wheelchair, can’t use her hands, arms or legs, has brain damage and can’t communicate.

“She’s not even able to talk,” her mother said.

Kukulski had gone to the hospital the day before, a Saturday, when contractions began, but said she had been sent home by Kent, whom she had never seen before.

She came back in the next morning, she said.

She was not considered a high-risk pregnancy.

According to Meyer, the nurse failed to note numerous abnormalities in the fetal heart rate and failed to respond to other signs of distress.

“They went on for over an hour and one-half,” he said.

The fetal heart rate dropped to less than half a normal rate, signifying a critical loss of oxygen, but there was no doctor on duty who could do an emergency Caesarean, he said.

“The nurse made a series of bad errors and there was no doctor there who could help,” Amanda’s mother, a paralegal, said.

The nurse called Kent again. This time, he agreed to come in, but by the time he got there, it was too late.

He delivered Amanda by emergency C-section about 6:30, but damage had been done, Meyer contended.

“She was not breathing, had no muscle tone, was floppy like a rag doll,” he said. “She had no respiration, couldn’t respond to painful stimuli and was basically in a coma. They finally got her breathing, but hours later she began to seize. They finally transferred her to New England Medical Center. ”

The settlement came yesterday after six days of trial in Lowell Superior Court.

Marcia Cassidy, spokeswoman for Lowell General, said the hospital would have no comment because it was not named as a defendant, but she said neither Kent nor Hanks is now on staff at the facility.

“Clearly this is a tragic case and, as always, our concern is for the patient and the family,” she said.

Attorneys for Kent and Hanks could not be reached for comment.

Kent, reached at his office in Chelmsford, said he had no comment. Hanks could not be reached for comment.

Kukulski said she hopes the money will allow Amanda’s life to become easier.

“We don’t even have a wheelchair ramp to get into the house yet,” she said. “And we want to get her a handicapped-accessible bathroom so that it will be easier to bathe her. ”

Kukulski and her husband Francis, a truck driver, have since had a second child, now 3, and she is healthy.

“They are great sisters to one another,” Mary Jane Kukulski said.

Testifying in court was difficult because it brought all the old feelings back, she said.

“It was very emotional,” she said. “I had to relive everything that happened 11 years ago. It reaches down into your soul. As a parent, you can’t explain the pain. ”

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