'Ma, they're killing me' -- Tracie's plea for her life
New report claims that terrified young CF patient was neglected by health services responsible for her care, writes Niamh Horan
'They're killing me, mam." That was one of the final things a terrified 24-year-old Tracie Lawlor said to her mother before her life was tragically cut short after receiving inadequate care for cystic fibrosis (CF).
And last week Tracie's family have finally received an independent report they commissioned which claims the young Wexford woman was neglected by the health service during her stay at Waterford General Hospital.
For weeks her mother Philomena stayed by her daughter's bedside as they struggled to get Tracie into a specialist unit at St Vincent's in Dublin -- but no beds were available.
Tracie, from Castlebridge, Co Wexford, had to endure blood stained medical trays, urine soaked bathroom floors and long stays in cramped wards during her many hospital stays despite the fact that CF sufferers are at high risk of cross contamination if exposed to unhygienic surroundings.
Now a report into her death compiled by a top UK doctor has found that doctors and nurses failed to keep records of her deteriorating health, medical staff did not asses her properly and there was inadequate attention from senior doctors at the unit.
Everyday Tracie's mother had to wash down her hospital room; the bedside locker, the hand wash basin, the bathroom and the floors because, she says, the standard of hygiene in the hospital was "appalling".
"They used the same water to clean the bathroom and the bedroom," she said. "They brought the dirty water from ward to ward. Hygiene is vital so that CF suffers don't contract an infection and it was abysmal."
To this day she still trembles at the painful memory of her beautiful young daughter as their pleas for Tracie to be transferred to be treated by specialist CF consultants in St. Vincent's hospital in Dublin were left unheeded.
"Tracie was frightened. She kept asking to be moved to Dublin. The care she was given wasn't right. I have regretted not pushing for her to be moved ever since. It was the biggest mistake of my life. I listened to the doctors when I should have trusted my own motherly instincts and got her out of there. It still haunts me tot his day."
Speaking about the report carried out by Dr Steven Philip Conway, she said: "We knew there was something wrong. And even though we knew all along, it's still a shock. I would have done murder if the people in question were standing beside me when I read it. We just want the recommendations of this report to be implemented so that nothing like this ever happens again.
"I would tell parents of any CF patients going in to hospital to trust their instincts. It's your child's life you're talking about."
The HSE confirmed yesterday it has received a copy of the report.
"The content of this report is being treated very seriously and is currently being carefully reviewed by hospital management and clinicians who have committed to meeting with Tracie's family, on completion of their review within the next week to ten days, in order to address their queries and concerns.
"Waterford Regional Hospital strives to provide a professional and caring service to all patients and their families and sincerely regrets the distress experienced by Tracie's family in their dealings with the hospital," it said in a statement.
Tracie's brother Joe, who also suffers from cystic fibrosis, says he misses his "wise older sister." He added: "You wouldn't tell her how much when she was around but I really realise it now. She was my best friend."
In 2008, after the Sunday Independent reported on Tracie's case, RTE's Liveline was flooded with calls about the scandalous non-care of Ireland's CF patients -- and this began a campaign against the delays in building a dedicated hospital unit for sufferers of the disease.
Despite her ill health, loved ones described Tracie as a girl with a zest for life which was utterly contagious. Friends nick named her "little lady" due to her feminine character and petite stature and many remembered her for having a twinkle in her eye that was as captivating as it was heart-warming. At her crowded funeral mass, musician Phil Coulter played a piano piece as a tribute to the young woman who had once accompanied him to sing on stage in New York; while a sympathetic letter penned by President Mary McAleese illustrated the many influential people Tracie's life had touched.
Among many of her achievements, the talented young student had been awarded the 'Profile of Courage' award.
For more information visit the Tracie Lawlor Trust at www.tracielawlortrust.com