Seattle Personal Injury Attorney Chris Thayer
Seattle Personal Injury Attorney Chris Thayer
Handling Personal Injury Claims in the Seattle Area and Throughout Washington Since 1995

My name is Chris Thayer and I am a personal injury attorney practicing in downtown Seattle. I handle personal injury, medical malpractice and wrongful death claims throughout the greater Seattle area, including Issaquah, Mercer Island and Kirkland.

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When You are in a Mercer Island Hospital, Does the HELPER Mnemonic Really Help?

Posted Friday, September 23, 2022 by Chris Thayer

SD (Shoulder Dystocia) is one of the most common labor and delivery complications in Washington. The baby’s shoulders are so large that the baby cannot naturally float down the mother’s narrow birth canal. About 2% of births involve SD emergencies. Most large King County hospitals handle several hundred births a day, which means several SD emergencies per day.

The consequences of these situations are swift and drastic. In less than five minutes, the baby’s umbilical cord restricts the flow of oxygen to the baby’s brain, causing cerebral palsy. The symptoms of this disease range from barely noticeable to completely debilitating. The good news is that CP is not degenerative, so it never gets worse. The bad news is that CP is not curable, so it usually never gets better.

If an SD emergency arises, the medical staff often relies on the HELPER mnemonic for guidance. However, as outlined below, this process often does more harm than good. If a doctor negligently injured a baby by not being prepared and/or reacting properly, a Mercer Island personal injury attorney can obtain substantial compensation in court. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as future medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as overall pain and suffering.

*Call for Help* Some doctors do not call for help when they need it. They see such calls as admissions that they cannot handle the situation or that they did not prepare properly. No professional likes to admit to such things. Additionally, especially at smaller hospitals and at night, help may not be immediately available.

*Episiotomy Evaluation* Bad idea. Once upon a time, doctors administered episiotomies, or small incisions between the mother’s anus and genitals, to widen the birth canal, whether the mom needed them or not. In the late 2000s, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised doctors to discontinue this practice. The most recent and best evidence clearly shows that episiotomies caused excessive maternal bleeding and were not very effective. Therefore, this evaluation almost always ends up negative.

*Move Legs for the McRoberts Maneuver* This intervention should probably be at the top of the list. Simply repositioning the mother’s legs shifts the mother’s center of gravity, making it easier for the baby to float down. However, this maneuver is only effective about 80% of the time. So, if it fails and the medical team has not tried it before now, about two minutes have melted off the five-minute CP clock.

*Suprapubic Pressure* SP is a little like CPR, except that the doctor targets the mother’s abdomen instead of her chest. Basically, tries to push the baby down the mother’s birth canal. The possible adverse effects of CPR on people are well-documented, which is why this procedure is only a last resort. The possible adverse effects on babies are even worse. Unless you have been through the process yourself, it’s hard to imagine how small and fragile a newborn baby is. Any excess force causes permanent injury.

*Enter and Perform Rotational Maneuvers* If external and indirect pressure causes permanent injuries, internal and direct pressure is even more dangerous. Yet that is the next step in the HELPER process. The doctor reaches inside the mother and tries to pull the baby out. Many doctors use even more dangerous mechanical devices, like forceps, in this step. Forceps are essentially large salad tongs, which the doctor uses like a crowbar.

*Remove Posterior Arm* At this point, the five-minute clock is near zero, and most doctors are desperate. They reason that going through life with only one arm is better than going through life as a CP victim. They are probably right about that. However, if not for the doctor’s negligence, things never would have gotten to this point.

*Count on a Dedicated King County Attorney* Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Mercer Island, contact Pivotal Law Group, PLLC. Virtual, home, and hospital visits are available.