Friday 13 December 2019

Woman 'devastated' when told she tested HIV positive

Court hears her blood sample was mixed up with another

Michelle Kenny
Michelle Kenny

A woman broke down yesterday as she told a court of her devastation when she was told she had tested positive for HIV - when in fact her blood sample had been mixed up with that of another person.

"I was devastated. I thought I was going to die, that I had no future," Michelle Kenny (35) told the High Court.

She has sued St James's Hospital in Dublin for nervous shock over the mix up in 2010.

"I thought how could this happen to me. My life is over," she told Mr Justice Bronagh O'Hanlon.

Ms Kenny, who works as a clerical officer in the same hospital, had two more hospital blood tests which showed an all clear, and another test through her GP, which was also clear.

She said she knows she is not HIV positive but she does not socialise any more and she just feels safe at home.

St James's has admitted liability in mixing up the two samples, but is contending that Ms Kenny, who is from the Crumlin in Dublin, did not suffer loss or damage.

Opening her case, Declan Buckely SC, said Ms Kenny thought she had been given a death sentence and time stood still for her when she got the first blood test result.

She told the court had begun to feel unwell while on holiday in Majorca in 2010 and when she went back to work on August 17, 2010 she went to hospital casualty where she had an ECG , chest x rays and blood tests.

 It was thought she may have a blood clot on her lung or there was the possibility of TB so she was kept in hospital until August 23 when she was discharged.

On October 6, 2010, she said she attended the St James's outpatient clinic where an assessment was carried  out and a doctor asked could they also do a blood test for HIV.

"I did not think I had anything to worry about," she said.

Ms Kenny told the judge that on October 13 the doctor rang her to say she did not have active TB and she would ring her back in a few minutes about the HIV test.

When the doctor rang back Ms Kenny said she asked was somebody with her and she told her she was alone.

"I asked was there anything wrong and she said the results of the tests were a bit worrying and it was not good. I said are you saying it is positive and she said yes, you are HIV Positive," she said.

Ms Kenny said she was screaming down the phone  to the doctor it can't be true. The doctor, she said, was telling her it was ok that she could live a normal life.

The doctor was trying to reassure her  and invited her to take the blood test again.

She said she went back to the hospital to have the blood test again and then went with her friend to tell her mother and later her father and brother.

"I felt more devastated for them. My mother broke down when I told her. My family were very supportive  and said they still loved me  and felt the same about me," she said.

When she got the result of the second test she was told it was clear and the doctor she said told her there had been a mix up with the first  sample.  A third test at the hospital also came up clear and negative.

"I felt relieved. I wanted to believe the third test . I went to my GP and I had a fourth test and that came back clear as well."

"I accept it was an honest mistake. The doctor at the hospital helped me every way she could," Ms Kenny said.

The case continues.

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