Woman strangled on TV flex
Patient suffering from Alzheimer's accidentally choked to death in freak accident
AN Alzheimer's patient on a high-dependency ward in a psychiatric hospital died after accidentally strangling herself on a TV cable.
Anne Collins (58) was discovered by shocked nursing staff at St Stephen's Hospital in Cork kneeling beside a ward bed with the TV flex wrapped around her neck.
Despite desperate efforts by nurses, doctors and paramedics to save her, Ms Collins died the following day, February 1, 2010.
The cable -- which had a loop in it -- had been hanging from a wall-mounted TV in a facility specially dedicated to long-stay psychiatric patients.
Cork Coroner's Court heard that the tragic incident sparked a full safety review by the Health Service Executive.
Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane was told that, following the risk assessment, all cables for wall-mounted TVs had now been wrapped and tied back.
Dr Cullinane was told by Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster that there was a ligature mark clearly visible on Ms Collins' neck -- and it was consistent with a piece of TV cable flex.
Dr Bolster said that very little pressure would have been required to trigger strangulation. A person can die after just a few seconds pressure on the vagal nerves -- the crucial nerves located in the side of the neck.
The inquest heard that Ms Collins suffered from severe dementia and had been in St Stephen's for just over a year.
She required assistance with feeding, dressing and cleaning herself and was virtually incapable of intelligible communication -- but was an extremely active patient, wandering all over the hospital ward and regularly climbing over the beds of other patients.
Dr Kenneth Nwachukwa, who attended Ms Collins when she was discovered on January 31, said her dementia was such that she was not capable of making any reasoned decisions whatsoever.
Ms Collins had been admitted to St Stephen's Hospital in February 2009 and was initially handled on a one-to-one basis.
The inquest heard that Ms Collins was not an aggressive patient but her energetic activities could be irritating to other patients.
Ms Collins had her own single room -- but, on a daily basis, still wandered all over the ward and into other patient's facilities.
Clinical nurse director Colette Stack told the inquest that on January 31, another patient complained at the nurse's station that Ms Collins was by her bed. The patient feared that Ms Collins would interfere with her belongings.
When she went to investigate, Ms Stack said she was shocked to discover Ms Collins leaning forward, unresponsive in a semi-kneeling position and with the TV cable flex around her neck.
The cable led to a TV mounted on the wall some 6ft off the floor.
"This cable was coming across her front (neck) -- she had a dreadful pallor. I knew she was in serious trouble," she said.
Dr Cullinane was told that gardai believed there was nothing suspicious about Ms Collins' death.
The inquest returned an open verdict in the case.