Melissa Crawford (easy version)

In 2004, Melissa Crawford was twenty years old. She was living in Smith Falls, a town in central Canada. She could not speak or walk—and she would never be able to do these things. She would have to be looked after until the end of her life.

Before she was born, while she was still inside her mother’s uterus, Melissa was a healthy baby. But while she was being born, she got no oxygen for fifteen minutes and her brain was damaged. That is why she can’t walk or talk.

Melissa got no oxygen because the doctors couldn’t get her out of her mother’s body. She was much larger than most babies. Her shoulders were too big and they got stuck. Melissa couldn’t breathe. The doctors had to pull her out with a special tool.

Even with this tool, the doctors had a hard job. When they got Melissa out she was blue. Her heart had almost stopped beating.

Melissa was a lot larger than most babies because her mother had diabetes. Diabetes is a sickness in which sugar is not taken out of a person’s blood in the way it should be. Usually, if a person gets diabetes they will have it for their whole life. But some women, like Melissa’s mother, Jeanette, become diabetic while they are pregnant and then, after they have their baby, their diabetes goes away.

A pregnant woman shares her blood with the baby in her uterus. If the woman has too much sugar in her blood because she is diabetic, then the baby will also have too much sugar in its blood. That extra sugar will make the baby grow too quickly.

When Melissa’s parents found out what had happened, they blamed Jeanette’s doctors. They felt these doctors should have checked to see whether Jeanette had diabetes. They should have noticed the danger signs: Jeanette was over forty when she became pregnant; she weighed too much, and while she was pregnant, she got even heavier; also her own mother had diabetes.

Melissa’s parents took their case against the doctors to court and they won. The judge said the doctors had to give Melissa eight million Canadian dollars. The money would be used to pay for her care. Also, Melissa’s parents were given one million Canadian dollars to make up for all the time and money they had had to spend looking after their daughter.

Although her brain is badly damaged, Melissa is still able to enjoy her life. She can remember people’s faces. She has a happy smile. Although she cannot really understand language, she does like people to read stories to her, and she enjoys watching television.

Now that Melissa has money, her parents know that, even after they are dead, she will be well looked after in her own home and that she will be able to continue enjoying her life.

uterus:
part of a woman’s body where a baby develops

oxygen:
the gas humans and animals need to live (21% of the air we breathe)

look after:
we look after a sick, or helpless person, or a child if we protect them and do for them the things they cannot do for themselves

make up for:
if you hurt someone or harm them in some way (by making them spend a lot of money for example) you can ‘make up for this’ (‘repay’ them) by giving them money or doing something else for them; (‘compensate’ has a similar meaning)