Friday 22 November 2019

Mountain climber died after apparently escaping 40-metre fall

Gareth Naughton

A MOUNTAIN climber who died from a twisted bowel within days of apparently escaping a 40-metre fall with just broken bones was predisposed to the condition, an inquest heard.

Joseph Reville (62), a teacher and father-of-three from Rushbrook Avenue, Templeogue in south Dublin, died at St Vincent’s Hospital on August 30, 2013.

Just one week earlier he appeared to have had a lucky escape when he fell 40 metres down a cliff while climbing at Luggala in the Wicklow Mountains.

Dublin Coroner’s Court had heard he was suspended on a rope in mid-air for a lengthy period before he was rescued. He was taken to St Vincent’s Hospital where he was treated for breaks in both legs but later developed severe abdominal pain as a result of volvulus - a twisted bowel. Surgeons operated to untwist the organ but Mr Reville subsequently died.

His widow Yvonne Reville had raised questions about whether he would have survived had the condition been discovered earlier when he first started complaining of stomach pain.

On the second day of the inquest, the coroner heard that Mr Reville was born with a congenital malrotation of vessels in the intestines which meant the bowel could twist at any time.

Surgical registrar Dr Helen Heneghan said she first saw him in the afternoon on August 29. He told her he had first complained of abdominal pain two nights previously, she said, and it had been intermittent since then. The pain had become severe in the early hours of that morning. A CT of his abdomen had already been requested and she went to the radiology department to expedite it. The CT was carried out within two hours and showed volvulus.

The inquest heard from radiologist Dr Eric Heffernan that volvulus was not present on a previous CT scan taken when Mr Reville was initially admitted.

Consultant general surgeon Professor Des Winter performed a laparotomy on Mr Reville, untwisting the bowel. He said the operation was successful but Mr Reville died as a result of toxins released back into his system when the blood supply was restored in the intestines. He said the medical team had acted as fast as possible.

“This was a devastating problem, like a heart attack. You cannot predict it, it just happens,” he said.

Asked if the volvulus could have been caused by Mr Reville hanging by a rope while waiting to be rescued from the mountain, Prof Winter said this would have been “very apparent”  from the outset. "It does not present days later," he told the coroner. He said that Mr Reville was at risk of volvulus throughout this life.

Returning a narrative verdict outlining the facts coroner Dr Brian Farrell said he was unable to establish a causal connection between the fall on the mountain and the twisted bowel.

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