A GRIEVING widower told an inquest he had to buy Bonjela to ease his sick wife's pain because a hospital's pharmacy wasn't open at weekends.
Kathleen Kilgallen, a nurse, died at University Hospital Galway (UHG) – the same hospital in which Savita Halappanavar died – in June of last year from septic shock following an extremely rare disease that caused almost all of her skin to shed.
Mrs Kilgallen (64), of Newpark, Swinford, Co Mayo, was mother of 'Hardy Bucks' star Tom Kilgallen.
She had been transferred from Mayo General Hospital to UHG in February of last year for treatment of cervical cancer and underwent radiotherapy treatment. She was making a good recovery and expected to be released home in April after 28 bouts of radiation.
But she developed a hospital bug, VRE (vancomycin resistant enterococci) and her condition began to deteriorate.
Doctors decided to operate to drain an infection and she was placed on an emergency surgery list on May 3.
But she was not operated on until May 9 and her bowel was perforated during the procedure, the inquest heard.
Widower Tom Kilgallen snr told the inquest he had visited his wife on June 9.
"She said her mouth felt like there were 1,000 pieces of broken glass in it," said Mr Kilgallen. When he asked for treatment for his wife's mouth, a nurse told him that the hospital pharmacy was not open at weekends. All that was available was water and a sponge, so he went to a pharmacist in Galway and bought Bonjela. She died on June 19.
Consultant Michael O'Leary, who operated on Mrs Kilgallen, was asked by coroner Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin if it was possible the pharmacist wasn't available at a major hospital at weekends. Dr O'Leary said: "Unfortunately I believe so. There are multiple specialties not present in the hospital at weekends." Surgeon Mark Regan said Mrs Kilgallen had developed toxic epidermal necrolysis (TENs).
"It is body-wide and causes the skin to shed. It is a very distressing condition. She had shed almost all her skin and she had to be managed in special beds.
"She had lost her entire protection and the skin had nothing to stick to," Dr Regan said.
Mr Regan said that although the pharmacy was closed at weekends, there was always access to drugs and the keys were available to nurses on duty.
The inquest heard that the cause of Mrs Kilgallen's death was septic shock, following on from TENs in the aftermath of treatment for cancer.
Dr MacLoughlin returned a verdict of medical misadventure.
By Brian McDonald