As she testified, Kathy West never let go of her son’s hand.
Blake was diagnosed with cerebral palsy in 1999, when he was 3 months old. Now a teenager, he sat in his wheelchair beside his mother as she spoke about the need for families whose children have suffered grievous injuries during birth to get the care they deserve – quickly and without hassle.
“I’m not sure I can quite describe to you how confused and helpless Blake’s father and I felt at that time,” West told legislators in Annapolis Monday. “Our only concern was getting the care that Blake needed to live a quality life. And I had no idea how that was going to happen.”
West told the joint hearing of the House Health & Government Operations and Judiciary committees about how her obstetrician helped connect her with the Florida Birth Related Neurological Compensation Association. Within four months, her family began getting the compensation they needed – not just for medical care, but also for equipment that insurance does not cover or deem a medical necessity, like bath chairs and communication devices. In fact, the Florida program recently purchased an Eagle Eye device that picks up the movements around Blake’s eyes so that he can activate a laptop computer by himself.
As I sat behind West, I was struck by the dedication of this woman who traveled 600 miles to Annapolis from her home in Indiana to share her very personal story. She made the trip because she understands that other families are just like hers, and they need help just as she did.
“I am here on behalf of all families and children who received neurological birth injury diagnoses,” she said. “I cannot imagine having to endure the ordeal and expenses of a lawsuit at that vulnerable time - especially for a naturally occurring injury - much less having to wait years until a settlement is reached. As a mom who has a son with cerebral palsy, I ask that you support children and families in your state by passing the Maryland No-Fault Birth Injury Fund.”
That’s what the proposal for the Maryland No-Fault Birth Injury Fund is all about: getting families the care they need and deserve. And it’s why we’re fighting hard to gain support for this legislation.
Thanks to compelling testimony from West and others, the joint committee hearing in the House went well. But the bill still faces strong opposition from trial lawyers. And while it is not likely that the legislation will pass this year, each time Maryland’s lawmakers hear from people like Kathy West, they gain an appreciation for what a fund can do for families who are suffering. Every year, we are building momentum for a compassionate program that helps those in need.
Kathy West won’t stop. Her son Blake won’t stop. And we won’t stop.
This is what our work in Annapolis is all about – advocating for you, your patients and your communities – so that lawmakers understand the huge difference they can make in the lives of the Marylanders we all serve.