How does a lack of oxygen affect the brain?

Firstly let me be clear that I don't want to sue anyone. The Nhs saved my daughter. I'm eternally grateful for that!

I've been reliving the accident an awful lot lately and something is bothering me... When we arrived at the hospital, by ambulance, she was moved onto a trolley. I very clearly remember that there was no key for the oxygen cylinder under the trolley. The doctor was furious. He was shouting at the nurses, "It should always be here!"

I'm not sure how long it took before they found another one but it was chaos, the tank was empty and they had to get another. I was led away to the family room and we were moved to a bigger hospital once they had found a suitable trolley to take her on.

Do you think any of this would be in her medical notes? Would it have made a difference?

5 Replies

I'm asking this because I'm trying to figure out how much of her brain is damaged and where the damage is likely to be. She's still too young to stay still for thorough scans. I suppose I'm trying to read the future, which I know is pointless but still.....

Perhaps it's morbid curiosity but I would like to know if the damage is affecting specific areas or if it's a general disintegration. I'd rather be prewarned and pave the way as much as possible.

After 5 years of avoiding thinking about that day I'm trying to confront it and lay it to rest. This is just a piece of the jigsaw, not an attempt to lay blame.


There are many descriptions of the effects of oxygen deprivation on the brain whom can probably explain it far better from a medical perspective than anyone on here. We can tell you how it affects us from a personal perspective.

You haven't mentioned in your post if your daughter is showing any symptoms or what the medical prognosis is?


Hi ifwisheswerefishes,

Thank you for your post and I am very sorry to hear of the situation with your daughter.

You might find the information on hypoxic/anoxic brain injury on our website will help answer some of your questions: headway.org.uk/Hypoxic-anox...

It is always very difficult to say exactly what effect these things could have had. If the new oxygen tank was found very quickly it may have had no additional effect, but the longer she was without it the higher the chance of further injury to the brain. A full neurological assessment may be able to give you a better idea of the extent and type of damage, although relating it to a single incident could be difficult.

You mention your daughter is young - can I ask her age? If she is below 18, you might find it helpful to contact the Child Brain Injury Trust ( childbraininjurytrust.org.uk ) or Cerebra ( cerebra.org.uk/English/Page... ) for support and information.

I hope this helps guide you a little, and please do get in touch if you'd like to talk this through further.

Best wishes,



Thank you for replying.

The link on hypoxic BI is very useful. It sounds like that is the main cause for all BI. Thanks for clarifying that.

I appreciate the redirect to CBIT however they are a very small charity who rarely answer the phone and other than offering to Google your questions or send a basic factsheet have little value. Cerebra also redirect to cbit.

Brief history of Rosie... She fell from an upstairs window onto the driveway when she was 3. Fractured her skull like a hairband. Glasgow coma score of 3. She wasn't expected to survive. 48 hours of waiting. Coma for a week. Miraculously she recovered amazingly well! Leftsided hemiparesis, loss of vision in one eye , swallowing difficulties, lack of balance, fine motor skills and learning difficulties, memory problems, etc. We are now 5 years on and most people can't tell she has any problems. A true miracle girl! Relearned to walk, talk, eat, etc.

I'm very conscious that this is the honeymoon period and as she begins to use the more complex areas of her brain we will find more emerging problems. I'm not sure what to expect.

The oxygen tank may have exasperated the situation but as there was so much damage I don't think it really matters.

She's only 8. I don't want to limit her recovery by my ignorance. Sorry if I'm asking these questions in the wrong place.



I'm glad to hear the information has helped. I think you're right really, at this stage the cause of the damage is less important than the possibility of it affecting Rosie in future. It seems like a very good idea to want to pre-empt any potential issues, as getting the right support early on could be a big help.

If she is now at school, they should have dedicated support staff for pupils with additional needs. They should be able to put support plans together, which I would hope can adapt to her educational progress and she grows older.

It may be that a neuropsychological assessment would be a benefit to get an idea of her current abilities and see if there are any likely issues at this stage, so it may be worth speaking to her GP about this (although sometimes referrals can be difficult to get).

As Headway is here to primarily support adults with a brain injury, I'm afraid I don't have very detailed information education issues for children. As well as the Child Brain Injury Trust's education factsheet ( childbraininjurytrust.org.u... ) they do publish a number of booklets that could be useful. I believe they also offer training for education providers. My thinking is that if teachers etc know about brain injury, they could work with you to properly support Rosie and flag up any issues as/if they arise.

You could also try The Children's Trust, as they have a wide range of services for children with a brain injury. These include those offered at their centre in Tadworth, but also services around the country for assessment and education. You can find out more at thechildrenstrust.org.uk/

...and visit their new 'Brain injury hub' at braininjuryhub.co.uk/ which includes a forum for parents.

I look forward to seeing if other members on here have any personal experience of these issues, as that is really valuable.

Best wishes,



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