Thursday 20 June 2019

Woman with no inhaler died of asthma attack as Storm Ophelia closed chemist

Gerardine Campbell
Gerardine Campbell

Louise Roseingrave

A woman who suffered a fatal asthma attack on the day Storm Ophelia hit went to her local pharmacy for an inhaler but it was closed.

Gerardine Campbell left work early on October 16 2017 because she was having trouble breathing. She had been diagnosed with asthma five years previously.

"She was bubbly and fun and very much loved. We miss her everyday," the woman's family said in a statement after the inquest at Dublin Coroner's Court.  

The mother of one drove home from work around noon but found her inhaler was empty, the inquest heard.

“She came home early that day. She said she didn’t feel well, she couldn’t breathe properly,” her son Eoin Campbell told the court.

She and her son drove to their local pharmacy in Santry in north Dublin but it was closed due to Storm Ophelia.

“Everything was essentially on lock-down from lunch time,” Sergeant Michael Higgins of Santry Garda Station said.

“That was the day of Storm Ophelia, it was a Monday. There were very few businesses open, staff were all sent home,” Sgt Higgins said.

Mrs Campbell and her son drove from Santry to the VHI Swiftcare Clinic in Swords.

Dr Zeeshaan Khan said the woman arrived at the clinic at 2.17pm.

“She had audibly shallow breathing, she was holding onto the railing at reception. She was directed immediately to the resuscitation room,” Dr Khan said.

The woman collapsed as soon as she entered the resuscitation room. Staff began chest compressions and an ambulance was called.

The clinic did not have a full complement of nursing staff due to the storm and the woman's son was asked to assist in calling the ambulance, the court heard. The ambulance arrived at 2.25pm.

Mrs Campbell was treated at Beaumont Hospital where scans found she had suffered extensive brain damage due to lack of oxygen and she died the following day.

The cause of death was hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy due to respiratory arrest due to an acute asthma attack.

“What one can’t say based on the post-mortem is what provoked the attack and why it became so established and so severe so quickly,” Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane said.

“She couldn’t get her medication soon enough. One doesn’t know whether if she had managed to get her inhaler, what would have happened. But clearly she had a very severe, rapid onset of asthma from which she did not recover,” the coroner said.

Dr Cullinane returned a narrative verdict to include the adverse weather conditions that prevented the woman from getting an inhaler from the pharmacy that day.

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