A SOUTH Lakeland family has won a £2.25 million settlement for devastating injuries suffered by their son at birth.

The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust accepted responsibility for a catalogue of errors that left five-year-old Zak Hall, of Sedbergh, with severe mental and physical disabilities.

Medics have said that he is unlikely to live into adulthood.

Zak was effectively stillborn at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary and starved of oxygen.

He has never learned to smile, cannot communicate with his family and is registered blind.

Enduring a cocktail of drugs to manage his varied health problems, which include cerebral palsy, he also suffers upwards of 40 seizures a day and has to be fed through a tube.

Mum Margaret brought a claim against the trust, seeking an apology for the mismanagement of her labour and financial compensation.

The family was awarded an initial lump sum of £2.25 million, which will be followed by annual payments to cover Zak’s ongoing needs.

Over his lifetime, it will amount to several million pounds. Speaking after the decision at the High Court, Mrs Hall said the outcome was a relief to the family.

“To anybody else it will seem like a massive amount of money but when you look at it from a care point of view it is just enough to get by. It means that rather than permanently having to fight the NHS for the equipment we need, we can fund it ourselves.

“Of course we would much rather have had a little boy who would live a long life, get married and have his own family than any amount of money in the world.

“We can’t get that little boy back but we have Zak, who is brilliant and absolutely gorgeous.”

Mrs Hall asked for a planned Caesarian for Zak’s birth when scans showed he could be as big as 12lb by his due date.

She had already been through a difficult labour with daughter Ashleigh eight years earlier, and was keen to avoid a similar situation.

Instead of a Caesarian, Mrs Hall was induced and a series of mistakes meant Zak was stillborn.

By the time he was resuscitated, the serious brain damage was irreversible.

The family alleged that if the planned Caesarian had been allowed, Zak would probably be living a normal happy life.

“I begged, pleaded and cried for the Caesarian, thinking it was meant to be the mother’s choice, but it just fell on deaf ears,” said Mrs Hall.

Five years on and Mrs Hall said it has been an uphill struggle to provide Zak with the care he needs.

Family and friends have rallied round with fund-raising to buy specialist equipment and make life more comfortable for the youngster.

But Mrs Hall said the settlement will now alleviate financial pressures and allow them to live as normal a family life as is possible, including moving to a larger house to accommodate Zak’s assortment of equipment from hospital beds to hoists and wheelchairs.

Caring for Zak is more than a full-time job for Mrs Hall, with husband Gary often away on duty with the Royal Navy.

He attends specialist Kendal’s Sandgate specialist school, where staff can care for him during the day. His daily routine involves being hooked up to a food tube, taking eight different kinds of drugs and regular physio, music and light therapy sessions.

Over the last year he has been having more night seizures and is often sick in bed from reflux. Other than crying, he does not make a sound, and Margaret said it was only recently that she realised he was even aware that they are in the room with him.

If he is touched too suddenly, or someone speaks too loudly, he will jump out of his skin and could trigger a seizure. But Mrs Hall said he loves nothing more than cuddles and always touches him when she speaks to him.

The family have been given varying estimates on Zak’s life expectancy, ranging from 12 to 19 years.

Mrs Hall said: “We just hope to God it is later rather than sooner. But living with everything he has to put up with is such a toll on his body, and there is only so much he will be able to take. There is no way of us preparing for that.

“This is a lovely house that we have been able to buy but it is always in the back of your mind where the money has come from and why, and it is therefore tainted. I am very aware that this is the house that we will lose him in.”

She said the family has been able to accept the trust’s apology, but she called on hospital staff to listen to patients more in future.

“The way I look at it, we are all human and all make mistakes,” she said. “But I think they need to get back to basics, listen to the people in their care and not just try and churn them through.”

Speaking on behalf of the trust, Jackie Holt, director of nursing and midwifery, said: “We accept that there were shortcomings in the care given during Zak’s birth in 2007 and I would like to apologise to Zak and his family.

“While the settlement cannot erase the past, we hope that it will allow Zak and his family to receive the assistance that they need.

“I would like to take this opportunity to wish Zak and his family all the best for the future.”