The parents of a Wagga boy who was born with brain damage after he was delivered at just 27 weeks have told a court of the everyday challenges he has had to face growing up.
James Phillip Coffey was born in January, 2004 at Wagga Base Hospital, which, at the time, was not accredited to deliver high-risk babies younger than 32 weeks.
The Coffeys began legal proceedings against the Murrumbidgee Local Health District this week in the Sydney Supreme Court, arguing they should have transferred mother Kathleen Coffey to Canberra Hospital for specialist delivery treatment.
On Tuesday, father Brian Coffey spoke of the barriers James has experienced in his 14-year life.
Mr Coffey said James’s biggest struggles centred around his verbal communication, but he also had trouble completing some basic tasks.
“I'll go show him how to push a lawnmower back and forth – you get in a tight area, he can't turn the mower around until I show him how to do it,” he said.
Mr Coffey went on to say James’s condition had taken a huge toll on the family over the years, particularly his wife, who he said has never been the same since she returned to Wagga after spending the first week of James’s life with him in Canberra Hospital.
“She shuts herself down and goes into her room,” he said.
James’s mother, Kathleen Coffey, also gave evidence in the hearing on Tuesday about the treatment she received at Wagga Base Hospital on the day James was born.
She told the court that no medical staff at the hospital actually assisted with James’s delivery.
“You don't mean to suggest by that, do you, that you delivered James onto the bed without any medical staff being present at the bed?” asked Richard Cheney SC, who is representing the hospital.
Ms Coffey said that was exactly what happened, adding that “it had to have been at least a good three or four minutes” before any medical staff took James out of the room for care.
On Wednesday morning, counsel for the Coffeys Anthony Bartley SC said the family and the hospital were hopeful they would soon be able to reach an agreement for damages.
Mr Bartley, who is instructed by Wagga solicitor John Potter of Commins Hendriks, had originally expected the hearing to last four weeks.
“There've been major advances made, your honour, in terms of reaching an agreement about damages,” Mr Bartley said.
“We're more or less at final points, they're not that far apart, and we hope to be able to reach that.”
The hearing continues.