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Family awarded $20M for hospital's error

Posted: 6:35 PM, Apr 13, 2016
Updated: 2016-04-14 01:36:45Z

A San Diego mother is hoping changes in policy will come from her heartbreak.

Connie and her 3-year-old daughter Sophia were awarded a $20 million settlement -- the largest medical malpractice settlement in California history.

"It was a wonderful day," Connie said of the day her daughter was born.

Sophia was born in January 2013, five weeks ahead of schedule.

"Doctors said she was premature, but healthy. She was feisty and had healthy," said Connie.

Four days after Sophia was born, Connie said she went into the newborn ICU to give Sophia her milk and found her pale and lifeless.

"Her diaper was soaked, as if a pitcher of water had been poured into it," said Connie.

Connie said on the floor was a puddle of water, which turned out to be a leak from the feeding bag.

She alerted the nurse.

What followed were several hours of not knowing.

"The only thing I kept thinking was, 'Please just don't her die,'" said Connie.

Sophia survived, but suffered brain damage.

"I was told by the doctor it was human error regarding the feeding tube," said Connie.

Connie's attorney Mike Bomberger said Sophia was overloaded with food.

"This was a nursing error. The machine was not calibrated or put on correctly, so that certain amounts of food went into [the] child. The child was overloaded with glucose, which caused an electrolyte imbalance. That changed the composition of the blood such that oxygen can't get to the brain," said Bomberger.

Three years later, Sophia suffers cerebral palsy. She struggles to walk and speak.

"It breaks my heart to see what she has to go through," said Connie.

Sophia will need around-the-clock care for the rest of her life.

Connie filed a lawsuit, and the case recently settled for an unprecedented $20 million, which will be set aside for Sophia's care.

Because of a confidentiality clause, the name of the hospital hasn't been released.

Connie hopes the settlement will lead to additional safeguards in all hospitals. Bomberger said critical actions, like hooking up a feeding bag, need to be double-checked and documented.

"It can't happen again. I wouldn't want any other parent to go through what I had to go through," said Connie.

Connie quit her job to care for Sophia full time. She hopes to take nursing classes to be able to care for her daughter.

Connie also has a message for new mothers: Be watchful and don't be afraid to ask questions in the newborn unit.