A mother whose daughter was stillborn is suing the NHS for £6million, after the tragedy left her terrified of losing her two healthy sons.
Justyna Zeromska-Smith lost her baby Megan during birth at Lincoln County Hospital nearly six years ago and says she has been plagued by depression and anxiety ever since.
The NHS Trust has admitted negligence but is disputing the amount of compensation the 38-year-old is entitled to.
Mrs Zeromska-Smith from Lincoln subsequently gave birth to two baby boys but insisted that she remained fixated on the memory of her lost child.
Justyna Zeromska-Smith (left) and husband Mark Smith (right) outside London’s High Court where they are suing the NHS for £6million
The mother says one of the grim effects of Megan’s death has been a ‘disabling separation anxiety’, leaving her terrified of losing her two sons.
Despite extensive treatment, she remains ‘traumatised’ by what happened and her ‘separation anxiety’ means she has to have her boys in her sight at all times, she says.
Mrs Zeromska-Smith told London’s High Court: ‘I feel very worried about my children dying or something happening to them.’
Prior to her tragic pregnancy with Megan, Mrs Zeromska-Smith had a successful job as a data manager and was ambitious.
She is now claiming £6million compensation from the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust over the traumatic legacy of Megan’s death at Lincoln County Hospital.
Her lawyers claim the stillbirth has had a ‘devastating and long-lasting impact on her and her family’, with Mrs Zeromska-Smith suffering significant psychiatric injuries, including acute depression.
She described herself now as a ‘completely different person’ to the confident young woman who had been ‘overjoyed when she fell pregnant with Megan’.
Lincoln County Hospital (pictured above) where Mrs Zeromska-Smith suffered the tragic stillbirth with Megan
‘I just can’t find a way to get it all back,’ she told the court, choking back tears.
‘Unfortunately, her positivity and general life ambitions were curtailed when the mismanagement of her pregnancy resulted in the stillbirth of Megan,’ explained her solicitor, Kiran Kaur Deo, in court documents.
Despite the NHS Trust having admitted negligence, it is disputing the amount of compensation she is due.
Charles Feeny – barrister for the NHS – asked Mrs Zeromska-Smith if the eventual end of the case might help resolve the past.
‘It’s been a horrible experience, something I wouldn’t wish on anyone,’ she replied.
‘I wish I didn’t have to be here.’
Discussing the prospect of the end of the case, she added: ‘It won’t change the things inside my head. It won’t change the fact that my daughter is dead.
‘It won’t take Megan’s grave away and it won’t take away my visits to her grave with my two sons.’
Mrs Zeromska-Smith said she had gone to court to get justice and find ‘some sort of resolution – so that someone can take responsibility for what happened here’.
‘So yes, the case will be over, but my life – this awful alternative life – I will be forced to continue with this.’
She added that she has symptoms of extreme lethargy and said that she often feels ‘really low for no particular reason’.
There are days when she finds it a battle even getting up and down the stairs, a care expert reported.
And her husband has to shoulder many everyday tasks, such as walking the family dog.
Mr Feeny acknowledged that losing a child through stillbirth would ‘reasonably be expected to cause a significant and emotional reaction in the mother’.
But he took issue with the ‘exceptionally dire prognosis’ suggested by Mrs Zeromska-Smith’s medical experts.
Despite the tragedy, a mother of ‘normal emotional resilience’ would generally recover – ‘although always harbouring an emotional and psychological effect from the stillbirth’, he argued.
And while accepting that her life is currently ‘restricted and dependent’, the barrister disputed that this resulted from any psychiatric illness caused by the stillbirth.
‘The defendants do not accept that this results from any psychiatric illness or injury and therefore has to be considered voluntary,’ he added.
Despite the devastating impact of the tragedy, she had been able to return to work at various times, he also noted.
The case continues before Mr Justice Martin Spencer, who turned down an application by Mrs Zeromska-Smith’s lawyers for the parties to be anonymised.