As soon as Haiden was born, Kassie Rivera knew something was wrong.
“He wasn’t crying when he was born,” she said. “I knew that something wasn’t right. He wasn’t moving, he didn’t cry. He wouldn’t drink out of a bottle.”
Haiden was born from induced labor at more than 37 weeks on Sept. 12, 2008, at Fort Hood’s Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center. The baby was airlifted three days later to a hospital at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio and remained hospitalized for about eight days.
Eventually, Rivera said the doctors sat her down to explain what went wrong — Haiden suffered severe brain damage during birth and would likely develop cerebral palsy.
The first-time mom immediately went home to research what she’d heard, only to discover that this was not a birth defect.
“It’s nothing inherited, it’s a trauma,” Rivera said.
On Tuesday, James R. Nowlin, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Western Division of Texas in Austin, signed an order for the federal government to pay Rivera $6.5 million for negligence during labor that led to Haiden to be born severely brain damaged. He was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
Rivera’s lawyer, Kenneth Suggs, said the order now awaits final signatures at the Justice Department, but is otherwise, “a done deal.”
The suit alleged doctors ignored evidence that Rivera’s contractions were overstimulated by the excessive use of oxytocin causing severe distress in the baby and the need for immediate delivery by caesarean section.
“There’s a part of me that does have a bit of hatred,” Rivera said. “If they’d have done things different, it would have been a different outcome for Haiden. That’s the hardest part to get over.”
But Rivera and her family are able “to start a new chapter now,” she said.
At the time of the birth, Rivera and her husband, Iraq War veteran Higinio Rivera, were stationed at Fort Hood. The couple have since had another son together and live in Michigan, where extended family can help take care of Haiden, who is nonverbal, can’t walk and must be fed through a feeding tube.
“Life is different for him, but for the most part, he’s happy,” Kassie Rivera said of her now 5-year-old son.
Having this money, she said, lets her know Haiden will always be taken care of, even if something were to happen to her.
“That worry is not there anymore,” she said, fighting off tears. “I fought for him because I knew in my heart that there was injustice done, and it’s a sense of pride and relief knowing I was able to fight for him.”
Darnall deferred comment to the U.S. Attorney’s office, which said the litigation was still pending and it, too, could not comment on the settlement.
For a long time, Kassie Rivera said she felt anger and blame for what happened to Haiden. Now, she’s made peace with everything, and focuses her energy on caring for her children.
“I’m extremely blessed to have Haiden,” she said. “He’s definitely changed my life for the better. I can’t imagine not having him. I’d rather have him how he is — good days, bad days, all the hospital visits. I’d rather have him as he is now that not have him at all.”