After combing through hundreds of inspiring stories of perseverance in the face of adversity, we are honored to announce the winner of the 2019 Hach & Rose, LLP Annual College Scholarship. This year’s winner was “born to a team of lawyers trying to convince [her] parents not to even attempt to sue the hospital.”
A month before she was born, in December of 2000, Eliza Schmitt’s mother visited her doctor for a routine checkup. Her parents wanted to induce labor on January 1st, 2001, and asked the doctor about it. The doctor refused to induce labor for personal reasons rather than what was best for the patient. Eliza explains the doctor’s beliefs as “while medicine can help alleviate the pain of birth… we, as people, don’t have the right to induce labor.” Despite Eliza’s mother having previously struggled with a natural birth and her preference for a C-Section, the doctor pushed them towards having the baby naturally, and told them parents that “She’ll come when she’s ready.”
Parents put their trust in their doctors, which makes what happened next feel even more of a betrayal.
Eliza was born on January 20th, 2001, nearly three weeks after the day her parents would have induced the labor. The birth was a challenging one, and the doctors said something was wrong in the process. Due to the extra time she spent in the womb, Eliza was a large baby. Eliza’s head and left arm were out, but she was stuck in the birth canal and would need to be pulled out. Eliza explains what happened:
“I’ve been told that either they would end up breaking my collarbone or giving me permanent nerve damage– Erb’s Palsy. Either way it was a lose-lose situation, but knowing they had no other options, my parents had to agree. Instead of the slightly better option of breaking my collarbone, something that wouldn’t majorly affect me for the rest of my life, I received permanent nerve damage. I arrived around 12pm, left arm dangling, forever useless.”
After she was born, the doctor refused to take responsibility for what happened. Her family called lawyer after lawyer, and all of them refused to take on the case of clear-cut medical negligence, saying that suing hospitals was a “no-go.” At the same time, the hospital’s legal team advised Eliza’s parents not to sue the hospital. Without any lawyers willing to step up and take on their case, her parents were left unable to do anything to hold the hospital accountable for their daughter’s birth injury.
For the first 10 years of her life, Eliza’s arm “laid uselessly at [her] side” as she grew up in constant pain. In 2011, she was able to undergo an experimental surgery that made some corrections in her shoulder. After eight hours of surgery and six months of physical therapy, she was finally able to lift her shoulder.
Her entire life was changed as a result of the negligence of a single doctor. Despite the difficulties she has faced, Eliza says that her disability has made her a stronger person. “It made me work harder than my peers for things that came easy to them.” She was told that she would never be able to play an instrument, or shoot a basketball, or even do a simple pushup. She overcame all of these challenges and is now able to play both the piano and the saxophone, can through a “poor basketball shot,” and can do a wall pushup. She learned that through hard work, perseverance, and creativity, she can do anything. We completely agree. Congratulations, Ms. Schmitt.