Infant poisoned by baby food
Company admits its product was laced with lethal magnesium
Published 16/09/2010 | 05:00
A BABY girl developed brain damage and died five years later after being poisoned by food that contained magnesium levels 120 times above normal.
Elaine Barrett from Galway, who was born prematurely, was less than six weeks old when she was given a special bag of food supplement in May 2003 -- which turned out to be contaminated.
Elaine's father, Frank Barrett, of Cloonacauneen, Claregalway, yesterday told how he and his wife Eileen were told their little baby girl had little chance of survival after being fed the contaminated feed.
A consultant paediatrician told Galway Coroner's Court that the little girl would have died much earlier were it not for the remarkable care given to Elaine by her parents.
A multinational medical firm yesterday apologised to the Barrett family for manufacturing the baby feed called Total Parental Nutrition (TPN) which caused massive brain damage to the little girl.
A combination of human error and a system failure in the factory where the product was made led to the contaminated product being manufactured.
But the inquest was told the family had waited seven years for an explanation and apology from B.Braun Medical, of 3 Naas Road Industrial Park in Dublin, and that the German firm had tried to blame a hospital in Galway for causing the little girl to suffer brain damage.
Mr Barrett recalled how the family had looked after Elaine at home for almost five and a half years and how they eventually had to borrow money to pay for nursing care. The couple have two children, Lorna (3) and Cormac (11 months).
Mr Barrett told the coroner, Dr Ciaran McLaughlin, he and his wife bore no malice against the people involved.
He said they would be forever grateful for all the help they received from hospital staff in Galway and Dublin. They wanted to ensure another family did not go through what they had endured.
The inquest was told Elaine was born 26 weeks premature by emergency section at Holles Street maternity hospital in Dublin on April 16, 2003.
She was transferred back to Galway as she got stronger but required at times to be fed TPN.
Each bag was manufactured to the individual specifications of each patient, following instructions from the patient's hospital.
Dr Kevin Dunne, a consultant paediatrician at Galway University Hospital, said two bags of TPN had been ordered but when the first of these were fed to Elaine on May 25, 2003, she became extremely agitated and her condition deteriorated. She was not given the second bag of TPN. It emerged that the magnesium level in the bag given to the little baby was 120 times above what it should have been.
The effect on Elaine was catastrophic with the magnesium levels resulting in the replacement of 99pc of the baby's brain with fluid.
She died from pneumonia on October 16, 2008.
Dr Dunne paid tribute to the exceptional care given to Elaine by her parents.
"The reason she lived so long was because of the love and care she got from her parents," he said.
Mr Barrett said Elaine screamed all the time, she had a disrupted sleep pattern which could see her sleep for 24 hours and then remain awake for three days.
"But she was a wonderful part of our lives," he said.
An investigation by B.Braun Medical found that there was a systems failure in their manufacturing operation, compounded by a change in personnel during the manufacturing process.
Magnesium from the manufacture of a previous bag was left in a supply line and this was erroneously fed into the bag which was given to Elaine and was not detected before being shipped to Galway.
The coroner's court was told a civil action has been agreed between the family and the medical company in recent weeks but was still waiting to be finalised by the High Court.
The inquest continues in Galway this morning.