THE parents of a newborn baby left severely brain damaged after a student midwife failed to act on the signs of jaundice want to ensure the mistakes are never repeated.

When Vasili Kalisperas, from Malvern, was born at Worcestershire Royal Hospital on May 18, 2012, his father Michael nicknamed him ‘Spartan’ because of his strength.

But the nickname quickly took on a new meaning when, two days later, the baby returned to the hospital, unaware he was about to face his biggest fight - for life.

He became severely ill after a student midwife who visited the family alone at their Highfield Road home, did not follow guidelines when he was showing symptoms of jaundice.

Now, Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust has admitted liability for his illnesses, saying it was deeply sorry for the mistakes which left Vasili with cerebral palsy, virtually blind, deaf and with diagnosed kernicterus, a form of brain damage.

Mr Kalisperas said he and his wife Elena, who also have a four-year-old daughter called Ellie, were left “absolutely devastated” by what happened.

“He was born healthy and the birth went smoothly so we didn’t expect anything would go wrong when we got back home,” he said.

“We can’t reverse what has happened to our son, so all we can do is try and stop it happening to others and we will campaign the best we can.

“It has been a traumatic time for Vasili, for my wife, for our four-year-old daughter and myself, but he is our Spartan and has fought for his life, so we have to fight for him.”

Mrs Kalisperas raised concerns about Vasili’s jaundice when he was visited, aged just a day old, by the mature community midwife who, unbeknown to the family, was a student.

She did not follow guidelines from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) which state newborn babies with jaundice should be tested and referred for hospital treatment if their condition is found to be severe.

The student was so unconcerned, she said she could return to check on Vasili and Elena on Monday rather than the next day, as planned.

However, the following day he was more severely jaundiced and when he passed urine that was dark orange, the parents called a different midwife who visited and advised the couple to take Vasili back to Worcestershire Royal.

Once there, he was given phototherapy to address his soaring levels of bilirubin – the substance that causes the yellowing of the skin and eyes.

His condition deteriorated so rapidly he stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated by doctors. He was given a blood transfusion but it was too late to prevent him from suffering devastating brain damage.

But Mr Kalisperas said the family held no anger towards the student who missed the severity of their son’s condition.

“I can’t blame the student but I do blame the system that allowed her out on her own,” he said.

“The NHS is a good establishment, with lots of good people working for it, but there are lots of things which bring the system down and safeguards need to be put in place to make sure things like this never happen again.”

The family has already been contacted by three other families who read Vasili’s story on their blog, at, and have since questioned treatment of their own children.

“I wouldn’t wish what has happened on anyone,” he said.

“It’s horrible seeing such a beautiful child in pain, grimacing and screaming.

“As a parent, all we can do is love him and bring him happiness and comfort for the rest of his life in any way that we can, as well as bring awareness because lessons need to be learnt.”

Medical negligence

THE medical negligence solicitor who is representing the family said Vasili was failed by a lack of awareness of the risks of newborn jaundice.

Eddie Jones, head of medical negligence at JMW, said he was concerned the case may have revealed a systematic failure in the training of new midwives, who should be alert to the fact jaundice in a newborn baby required prompt investigation.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust said it had conducted a thorough investigation and was pleased a financial settlement had been reached for Vasili’s future care.

“It is normal practice, in certain situations, for student midwives to visit patients on their own when they are in their final year of training as this is considered to be essential to their training,” a spokesman said.

“We have reviewed our processes and now have an improved system in place which ensures that no student midwife can make home visits on their own unless their supervisor is confident that they are fully competent.”

But Mr Jones said JMW had been warning that greater awareness of newborn jaundice was needed for some time.

“Sadly Vasili’s case it not an isolated example, although it is one of the worst we have seen,” Mr Jones added.

“We are currently representing several other children whose lives have been devastated by kernicterus that was completely preventable if the signs had been recognised, adequate checks made and the child referred for treatment.”

Newborn jaundice

  • Jaundice is caused by the build up of bilirubin which is produced when red blood cells are broken down
  • It causes the yellowing of skin and whites of eyes
  • Other symptoms can include dark urine and pale coloured stools
  • Symptoms usually develop 2-3 days after birth
  • If jaundice develops within 24 hours of birth it can be a sign of underlying health issues
  • Treatment can include phototherapy or a blood transfusion