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Tragedy of doctor and mum-of-three told brain haemorrohage was migrane

Old friend battled to save life, inquest told

Published 28/09/2011 | 05:00

Niamh Long
Niamh Long

A DOCTOR who died after emergency brain surgery to treat an aneurysm had been discharged from hospital just days earlier after being told she had a migraine.

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Niamh Long (40), a Cork-based GP and mother of three, died on January 12 last.

Just six days earlier, Cork University Hospital (CUH) emergency department registrar Dr Gergely Halasz diagnosed her as suffering from a migraine or cluster headache.

Dr Halasz, who had been working at CUH since the previous September, is also alleged to have prescribed Dr Long a medication which was not licensed in Ireland.

A coroner's inquest heard yesterday that Dr Long's husband, Eoin Clifford, had to return to CUH from a pharmacy and obtain a different prescription from another doctor.

Yesterday, Dr Halasz, who was described by neurosurgeon Professor Charles Marks as "an experienced registrar", acknowledged that his original assessment was wrong.

"My diagnosis was incorrect, that is true," he said.

However, he insisted that Dr Long, of Endsleigh, Douglas Road, Cork, displayed no "red flag" symptoms that day that would have warranted a CT scan.

No scan was ordered.

Dr Long's husband insisted that his wife -- an experienced GP who had to be brought to CUH that day by ambulance -- had sensitivity to light, neck pain, nausea and had lost consciousness.

Dr Long was brought back to CUH the following day by her husband after GP Dr Kieran O'Keeffe contacted Professor Stephen Cusack at the emergency department to say he was unhappy with her ongoing condition.

Artery

A CT scan revealed that she had suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage due to an aneurysm or 'blister' on the carotid artery, the main vessel bringing blood to the left side of her brain.

The decision was made to operate on Dr Long but, during the surgery on January 8 to 'clip' the aneurysm, the metal clip sliced through the artery wall.

Prof Marks -- who Dr Long had served her internship with -- tried desperately for an hour-and-a-half to repair the hole in the artery but was unable to do so.

"I unsuccessfully tried to repair this with a micro-clip but eventually had to resort to clipping off the internal carotid artery to prevent a fatal haemorrhage," he said.

"I tried as hard as I could (to repair it). This was one-and-a-half hours of desperation. This was one of the most desperate things I have done in a long career in neurosurgery. I don't panic but I was as close to panic as I get," he added.

Prof Marks said it was "a very tragic and painful case" given that he had known Dr Long and realised she had a husband and three young children.

Dr Long's organs were donated for transplant after her death.

A verdict of death by medical misadventure was returned at the inquest.

Dr Long's husband Eoin told the Irish Independent that her entire family were still reeling from their loss.

"Niamh was a wonderful wife and mother and her passing has left an incalculable void in the lives of those left behind, including her family and our three beautiful girls (Laoise, Orla and Emer)," Mr Clifford said.

"Contrary to what I was told in the hospital things could have been done differently, which would have increased Niamh's chances," he added.

Irish Independent

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