Family’s heartbreak after failures led to Hailsham teen’s death

Shaun before the accident
Shaun before the accident

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 teen, 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.

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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 and had it not been, ‘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 the Herald.

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 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.

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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.

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SUS-180724-164609001

“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.”

Medics and care providers have apologised to the Avard family in the wake of Shaun’s death.

In a letter to his family, the Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust said it accepted “the care experienced by Mr Avard was not at the level that should have been expected” and that “his untimely death could have been avoided”.

A spokesperson also told the Herald, “We apologise unreservedly for the failures that led to the pain felt by Shaun and the upset caused to his family and friends.”

The Herald has been unable to contact Julien Payne, a Galleon Care Homes director, and nobody else from the company is willing to respond.

But in a letter to Mr Avard’s family from solicitors representing Ansvar Insurance on behalf of Galleon Care Homes, it admitted there was a “failure to correctly record Shaun’s prescription upon transfer to Mulberry House” and the findings of the Safeguarding Adults at Risk Report prepared “are not disputed”. The letter went on, “On behalf of Galleon Care Homes Limited, we extend our apologies to the family in respect of the failure admitted.”

Mr Avard said the family had pursued the claim so lessons could be learned and said, “Nothing will bring our Shaun back but we just want to make sure no other family has to go through the same experience.”