Botched Birth Leaves Baby With Skull Fracture and Disabilities, Lawsuit Says

Hayley Holland's nightmare labor at the Sun Life Center for Women in Pinal County in 2015 left her newborn son with a skull fracture and permanent injuries.

Now, Holland and her husband have filed a complaint in Arizona U.S. District Court, alleging that a series of missteps by the doctors and nurses led to the tragedy and what will be lifelong disability for the boy.

Holland, a young mother and petite woman, was under the care of the same doctor at Sun Life throughout her term. At 39 weeks and one day, her pregnancy was not deemed to be high-risk or complicated, the lawsuit states, but her doctor scheduled the 18-year-old for an elective labor induction anyway.

Around 10 a.m., Holland's doctor ordered her induction be performed by administering Cytotec, or misoprostol, every four hours.

Holland alleges that no "Bishop's score" — a prelabor scoring system used to determine the readiness of the cervix — was taken prior to her doctor deciding to administer a strong drug with serious risks and side effects. She also says that her baby's fetal weight was not estimated and his fetal position was not verified.

The first and only recorded dose of Cytotec was administered just after 10:30 a.m, the lawsuit states.

By 3 p.m., Holland's water broke. Around 6:15 p.m., one of Holland's nurses noted the baby's heart rate decelerations had changed significantly — from 60 beats per minute just a half hour earlier to 20 beats per minute.

For the next six hours, Holland's labor continued. She was experiencing tachysytole, or six contractions every 10 minutes. Her medical records indicated that her baby was exhibiting signs of fetal labor intolerance.

"Nonetheless," the lawsuit states, no doctors or nurses "took available or appropriate action in response to these decelerations [in the fetal heart rate], such as resuscitation measures to improve fetal oxygenation."

Holland's doctor had written that Pitocin, a synthetic form of oxytocin, should be administered "after delivery of [the] placenta. To control uterine bleeding. 2 doses max."

Though records indicate Holland's placenta was delivered at 12:35 a.m., a nurse gave Holland Pitocin before she delivered the placenta — at 8:21 p.m., the lawsuit states.

By 10:30 p.m., her baby's heart rate was tachycardic, meaning it was racing.

Holland's son was delivered at 12:27 a.m. But the brutal labor had left him with a skull fracture, "prominent posterior cephalohematoma, intracranial hematoma with intracranial hemorrhage, a massive subgaleal hemorrhage, cerebral edema, periorbital edema, respiratory distress requiring oxygen, and significant right arm and back bruising."

Her baby was transferred to Banner Desert Medical Center, where he underwent treatment for brain bleeding, seizures, renal failure, and liver injury, the lawsuit states.

Holland and her baby's father, Alyan Watt, allege that Banner Health and their physicians were medically negligent when they failed to properly monitor the progress of her labor, leading to the traumatic delivery.

"As a result of these severe and permanent injuries, D.M.W. [the child] will continue to suffer lifelong physical, emotional, and developmental disabilities," the lawsuit states.

A spokesperson for Banner Health said they do not comment on pending litigation. Holland's attorney, Craig Knapp, did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment.

Holland and Watt are seeking to recover reasonable damages for the permanent injuries their son sustained and the costs associated with the extra care he needs.

Holland alleges that the doctor and nurses did not properly communicate, that nurses failed to follow instructions provided by the doctor, and that they failed to take adequate steps to ensure the safety of her baby.

"As a direct and proximate result of the defendants’ negligence, D.M.W. has suffered, and will continue to suffer for the remainder of his natural life, pain, distress, discomfort, disfigurement, impairment, disability, anxiety, and inconvenience," the lawsuit states. The parents allege their son will "sustain a loss of earning capacity," and "a loss of enjoyment of life."

Their child will continue to require special medical treatment, rehabilitative care, special-needs attention and care, and other forms of treatment and therapy. The parents are demanding a jury trial.

Banner Health has not yet filed a response.
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Meg O'Connor was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times from April 2019 to April 2020.