Heartbreak after failures in care led to teenager’s death

Shaun Avard SUS-180724-164549001
Shaun Avard SUS-180724-164549001

The family of a teenager who died after care ‘failures’ have spoken out so other people with acquired brain injuries will not suffer in the future.

Shaun Avard was just 17 when he was left in a vegetative state and unable to walk or communicate after a serious motorbike accident on the Ersham Road at Hankham in March 2012.

Shaun Avard

Shaun Avard

The Hailsham teenager, who went to school in Ringmer, was initially cared for by the Children’s Trust 
at a specialist hospital in Surrey but in October 2013 when he had turned 18, he was moved to Mulberry House in Hastings.

That, says his family, is when his condition deteriorated and an incorrect reduction in medication left him constantly in pain and vomiting blood.

He was taken to the Conquest Hospital and Hurstwood Park Neurological Centre and a CT scan revealed hydrocephalous.

He contracted pneumonia and died in July 2014 aged 19.

Shaun before the accident

Shaun before the accident

Shaun’s mother Karen led the fight for justice for Shaun but died of bowel cancer in 2016 before the case concluded.

His family recently settled a claim against Galleon Care Homes Limited, which ran the Mulberry and is a sister company of Titleworth Neuro Ltd, and a claim against the Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust, and received an undisclosed sum.

The trust admitted Shaun’s medication – the drug Baclofen, to stop his body going into painful spasms – was incorrectly reduced by 90 per cent.

Had it not been reduced to that extent, ‘he would not have suffered such significant pain, not have developed fluid on the brain and his pain and suffering and untimely death would have been avoided’, according to legal documents seen by Sussex Newspapers.

In addition, Galleon Care Homes did not dispute findings in an adult social care safeguarding adults at risk report, which stated four members of staff at Mulberry House at the time should be referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council to be investigated, and there should be a review of all acquired brain injury training for staff.

Both the trust and Galleon Homes have apologised to the Avards but Shaun’s father Tony, who lives in Polegate, has chosen to speak out so other families will not go through the same experience.

He said: “My son was dying in front of my eyes in a home where he should have been looked after properly.

“He was deteriorating in front of us, in pain on a daily basis.

“Mulberry couldn’t deal with Shaun’s complex needs and they failed him.

“When he left the Children’s Trust he was making progress, able to tolerate sitting in his wheelchair for hours at a time, standing on a daily basis on a tilt table, going on journeys for days out and coming home on a regular basis, using his eyes to communicate and to vocalise when uncomfortable.

“Within weeks of being at Mulberry, he was losing weight, his splints were extremely loose on him, his spinal jacket had been broken not once but twice and he was left in bed far too often.

“My family will never recover from watching Shaun go through the pain and torment on a daily basis for months until the day he died.”