Friday 28 July 2017

Parents of Aibhe (6) 'haunted' that beloved daughter 'spent some of her final hours without them by her side'

Parents claim daughter's underlying medical condition was not effectively addressed by medical staff, inquest hears

Six-year-old Aibha Conroy, from Gowla, Cashel in Connemara, Co Galway, died at Temple Street Hospital on December 14, 2011
Six-year-old Aibha Conroy, from Gowla, Cashel in Connemara, Co Galway, died at Temple Street Hospital on December 14, 2011
Kathleen and John Conroy with their daughter, Sorcha, outside the Coroner's Court in Dublin at a previous inquest into their daughter, Aibha, 6. Picture: Damien Eagers
Dr Edina Moylett, consultant paediatrician, outside the Coroner's Couurt in Dublinat a previous inquest into Aibha Conroy, 6. Picture credit: Damien Eagers

Liz Farsaci

The possibility that their six-year-old daughter’s underlying medical condition was not effectively addressed is ‘consuming’ her family, a solicitor claimed today, as the inquest into the death of Aibhe Conroy continued.

One doctor and three nurses from Galway University Hospital gave evidence at the inquest today, which was attended by Aibhe’s mother, Kathleen Conroy, as well as her father John, and her sister, from Gowla, Cashel, in Connemara, Co. Galway.

The Conroy family’s solicitor, Damien Tansey, indicated to the inquest that Aibhe’s parents believe that their daughter’s potential hormonal abnormalities were not effectively addressed by health care professionals. This idea that her health issues were not effectively addressed ‘is eating them up’ and ‘consuming them’, Mr. Tansey told the inquest.

The inquest also heard that six-year-old Aibhe was critically ill when she was transferred from the ICU at Galway University Hospital to the ICU at Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin on December 11, 2011.

Her parents, however, told the inquest they were unaware of the severity of her condition, Mr. Tansey said, and did not realise that her hours in the ambulance while she was being transferred to Dublin were some of her last.

Aibhe’s mother, Kathleen Conroy, and her father, John, ‘are haunted’ by the thought that their beloved daughter spent some of her final hours without them by her side, Mr. Tansey told the inquest.

Dr Edina Moylett, consultant paediatrician, outside the Coroner's Couurt in Dublin where the inquest into Aibha Conroy, 6, took place. Picture credit: Damien Eagers
Dr Edina Moylett, consultant paediatrician, outside the Coroner's Couurt in Dublin where the inquest into Aibha Conroy, 6, took place. Picture credit: Damien Eagers

Aibhe died at Temple Street Children’s hospital in Dublin on December 14, 2011. Four days previously, she had been admitted to GUH suffering from hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar, and weakness. She was also vomiting.

She initially responded to treatment when first admitted to GUH on December 11 but within 90 minutes she suffered a respiratory arrest and had to be resuscitated.

Aibhe was subsequently transferred to the intensive care unit at GUH, but then suffered brain damage within a couple of hours.

She was then transferred to Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin on the afternoon of 11 December.

Prior to her admittance on 11 December 2011, Aibhe had been admitted to GUH on two previous occasions, in August 2011 and March 2010. On both occasions, she was treated for hypoglycaemia by the administration of intravenous fluids, and the issue was resolved.

Dr. Ana Louise Hawke, who was working as an SHO at GUH during August 2011, when Aibhe came in for treatment, told the inquest that she transcribed the notes of Aibhe’s case from the computer into the young girl’s medical chart.

At the request of the consultant with whom she worked, she also initiated contact with Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin about the possibility of tests there.

Dr. Hawke says she does not recall meeting Aibhe at any point, and was just giving evidence to the inquest based on what was written in her notes. Dr. Hawke insisted that she made no decisions in regard to Aibhe’s treatment.

‘I made no decisions in relation to Aibhe’s care,’ Dr. Hawke said in her evidence.

Mr. Tansey, solicitor for the Conroy family, questioned whether Dr. Hawke’s recalled having a conversation with someone in Crumlin Children’s Hospital, and whether she told someone about Aibhe’s prior issues with hypoglycaemia.

Dr. Hawke told the inquest she did recall receiving a phone call from Crumlin but that she has no memory of the conversation.

At the time, Dr. Hawke wrote on Aibhe’s chart that colleagues in Crumlin said they would be happy to accept Aibhe into their care if her blood sugar levels went below 2.6.

Under intense questioning from Mr. Tansey, Dr. Hawke said that she knew Aibhe was admitted into the hospital suffering from hypoglycaemia, and that hypoglycaemia is a dangerous condition.

When Aibhe was discharged from GUH on 24 August 2011, her mother, Kathleen, was under the impression that she would be seeing doctors in Crumlin in a few days, according to Dr. Tansey. This never happened, however, the inquest heard.

Kathleen Conroy previously told the inquest that she believed her daughter would be alive if she had been referred to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, for testing for potential hormonal abnormalities.

Mr. Tansey told the inquest there is compelling evidence that there were hormonal abnormalities in Aibhe.

‘It’s eating the Conroys up that this was never effectively addressed,’ said Mr. Tansey. ‘It’s consuming them'.

Marina O’Flanagan, who worked as a nurse in the Emergency Department at GUH on December 11, 2011, as well as ICU nurse Niamh Colleran, also gave evidence at the inquest. Although the both were involved in the care of Aibhe, they do not recall her or her family specifically.

Mr. Tansey questioned Ms. Flanagan over a dose of dextrose, used to treat people suffering from hypoglycaemia, that Aibhe was administered on December 11, when she was admitted into GUH for the third time. He argued that this dose was half the dose that she was administered previously, even though the previous doses had been effective in helping return her blood sugar to an appropriate level.

During his questioning of Nurse Colleran, Mr. Tansey said the Conroys did not realise the critical state in which Aibhe was in when she left GUH to transfer by ambulance to Dublin.

The thought that their beloved daughter was travelling to Dublin without them by her side when she was so close to death is ‘unsettling them’, Mr. Tansey said. ‘It’s causing them a lot of unease. It’s cutting them up.’

Mr. Tansey also brought this issue up with Eithne Fox, an ICU nurse who travelled in the ambulance with Aibhe to Dublin. The solicitor reiterated that Aibhe’s parents did not know just how ill Aibhe was when she left Galway.

‘It’s haunting them that they didn’t know that,’ said Mr. Tansey, despite the fact that they interacted with staff throughout Aibhe’s care.

This week marks the third time in which the inquest into Aibhe’s death, the underlying cause of which has yet to be established, has been convened.

The inquest continues tomorrow.

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