Wednesday 23 October 2019

Inquest finds girl (9) died from heart condition at swim lesson

Defibrillator battery was too low to help 'lovely, sporty' Michaela

Michaela's parents Yvonne and Michael, outside the inquest. Photo: Collins
Michaela's parents Yvonne and Michael, outside the inquest. Photo: Collins

Louise Roseingrave

The parents of a nine-year-old girl with a heart condition who died while learning to swim have paid tribute to their "lovely, sporty" girl.

Michaela-Clare Gonda was pulled out of a pool as she waited for her swimming lesson to start.

Her devastated parents, Michael and Yvonne Gonda, described her as a fun, active, loving child who managed to live a full life despite her heart condition.

"We just miss Michaela so much. She was a really lovely girl, she loved singing and she loved her swim classes," Mr Gonda said.

He was speaking after an inquest found that Michaela-Clare did not drown but suffered a cardiac arrhythmia while swimming.

Michaela-Clare was born with the congenital heart condition Tetralogy of Fallot and underwent a corrective procedure at the age of four months.

Tragedy: Michaela-Clare Gonda lost her life at swimming pool.
Tragedy: Michaela-Clare Gonda lost her life at swimming pool.

In 2015, she had further surgery, and it was noted that her heart function was not perfect but that she was doing well.

Michaela-Clare was about to begin her third swimming class at Tallaght Community School Sports Complex in Balrothery, Dublin 24, at 7pm on May 12, 2017 when she lost consciousness in the water.

Her parents, who moved to Tallaght from the Philippines in 2000, were chatting on a bench beside the pool.

"Michaela kept coming up to us saying, 'I know how to swim now, Mammy'," Mr Gonda said.

A minute or so had passed when he noticed she hadn't been back to talk to them.

"I saw her underwater. I jumped straight in," he added.

Staff began chest compressions and brought the defibrillator but could not use it because the battery was low, the inquest heard.

It was also told that the navigation system used by Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) is not compatible with the Eircode post code system.

Emergency services were called at 7.12pm and arrived at the complex at 7.19pm.

Responding to questions about directions, DFB station officer Dominic Taaffe said the Eircode system is not compatible with the fire brigade's satnavs and that staff have to use their own personal mobile phones to access an Eircode.

Tallaght Community School Sports Complex general manager Padraig Kenny said new visitors regularly confuse it with Tallaght Leisure Centre, but the two are entirely separate complexes.

Michaela-Clare was rushed to Crumlin Children's Hospital where she was pronounced dead shortly after 8pm.

A post-mortem found substantial damage to the heart muscle.

"Michaela did not drown, something happened to her heart in the water that caused her to lose consciousness," said Dublin Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane.

The cause of death was found to be dis-rhythmic death secondary to pronounced myocardial pathology in a nine-year-old child with a history of Tetralogy of Fallot.

Returning a narrative verdict, the coroner recommended that facilities with defibrillators have a system of ensuring the equipment is functioning.

The inquest heard that the defibrillator at the complex is now checked daily since the Michaela-Clare's death.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News