Saturday 18 November 2017

Emergency surgery saved rugby student's life, court told

Neville Lucas leaving court with his mother Michelle. Picture: Courtpix
Neville Lucas leaving court with his mother Michelle. Picture: Courtpix

A YOUNG student who suffered a kick in the head during a schools rugby match would have died had emergency surgery not saved his life, a consultant neurosurgeon has told the High Court.

Dr Daniel Roderick said Lucas Neville's score on a test to assess a person's level of consciousness following a traumatic brain injury indicated the extreme severity of his injury when he was rushed to Beaumont Hospital on November 28, 2009. He scored four on that test, the Glasgow Coma Scale, which has a range from three to 15.

He had collapsed minutes after suffering a kick to the head during a match between St Michael's College, Ailesbury Road, Dublin and St Mary's College.

Dr Roderick was giving evidence in the continuing action by Mr Neville against St Michael's College and St Vincent's Healthcare Group, as owner of St Vincent's Hospital, Elm Park, Dublin.

Mr Neville, now aged 22, of Pembroke Lawns, Ballsbridge, Dublin, has sued for some €5m damages as a result of his injuries. 

Dr Roderick, whose team at Beaumont managed Mr Neville's treatment, told the court the young man was deeply unconscious and the pupils of his eyes were fixed when he underwent a craniotomy for evacuation of a subdural haemotoma.

Mr Neville had two haemotomas, an acute haemotoma as a result of the November 28 injury, and an earlier chronic haemotoma suffered as a result of another injury sustained during rugby training some weeks earlier, the court heard.

The day after surgery, the pupils of Mr Neville's eyes were reactive, indicating "we got him in time", Dr Roderick said. Had the surgery not been carried out when it was, Mr Neville "would not have survived".

Dr Roderick said he believed Mr Neville's condition is unlikely to improve beyond his present state and there was also a risk he may develop epilepsy in the future. There are a range of studies supporting his view, he added.

He agreed with Eoghan Fitzsimons SC, for the school, that some other studies suggest it is possible for people with such injuries to return to normality within a number of years. The knowledge "is evolving all the time", he added.

He also agreed it was an encouraging sign Mr Neville has not to date developed epilepsy.

The court has heard Mr Neville collapsed after suffering a head injury in the schools' rugby match on November 28, 2009. He had suffered another injury 17 days earlier, after a knee accidentally collided with his head during school rugby training.

After the training injury, Mr Neville went to St Vincent's A & E where he received treatment. He returned to the hospital on November 15 with headaches and eye difficulties. It is alleged the hospital should have, but failed, to carry out a scan of his head on November 15.

Mr Justice Sean Ryan was told his mother Michelle, worried about the November 11 injury, had been assured by the school it would implement its protocol under which students who suffer head injuries would not be involved in contact sports for a three week period. Mr Neville was on the subs' bench for most of the November 28 game but played the last few minutes.

Both defendants have admitted liability and Mr Justice Ryan's task is to assess damages. The defendants dispute the €5m value of the claim, particularly some €2m being sought for future care. 

The case continues.

Irish Independent

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