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Mother told by paramedics to give tragic son 7Up, court told

A GRIEVING mother broke down in tears yesterday as she described how she was advised to give her sick 11-year-old son 7Up hours before he died after she called an ambulance to bring him to hospital.

Maria Sala phoned on two occasions for an ambulance for son Leonardo. And she wept at his inquest yesterday as she told how staff on the first ambulance suggested she give him 7Up.

Leonardo Sala (11) of Mount Andrew Court in Lucan, Co Dublin, died of acute inflammation of the colon, secondary to chronic constipation at the Children's University Hospital in Temple Street, Dublin on July 21 last year.

Recording a narrative verdict, which is a summary of the facts surrounding the case, Dublin city coroner Dr Brian Farrell said there seemed to have been a "communications issue" involved and Mrs Sala believed her son -- known as Leo -- would be taken to hospital on the first occasion.

He said he would write to all hospital paediatric metabolic units to ask them to consider giving a care card to patients that could be presented to the emergency services and at A&E departments in the event of an emergency.

The inquest was told Mrs Sala called an ambulance just before 5pm on the day before his death as Leo had diarrhoea and vomiting. A Dublin Fire Brigade ambulance attended at the family home at 5.14pm, but did not take the boy, who had an underlying condition called mitochondrial disease, to hospital.


Garda Sergeant Mark Campbell told the coroner's court that there was a language and communication issue.

A different ambulance went to the Sala home at 10.27pm, after a second call was made to the emergency services and the boy was taken to Tallaght Hospital, accompanied by his father, Antonio.

Leo was diagnosed with inflammation of the colon (large bowel) secondary to chronic constipation, which may have been associated with his underlying metabolic disease.

He was transferred to the Temple Street hospital for intensive care where he died the following day.

A tearful Mrs Sala told the hearing she "was expecting the (first) ambulance would take him straight away (to hospital)". But a paramedic told her there was "not a problem" with Leo and that he needed water and 7Up.

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Mrs Sala, who speaks Portuguese, told the coroner she felt "guilty". "The way the young man explained the situation. He was so confident . . . so sure there was no problem . . . they (the parents) did not ask him to take the child (to hospital). The way he said it, they thought there was no problem," said her interpreter George Mopinga.

Asked by Dr Farrell if she had explained her son's past medical history, Mrs Sala said she showed them a laxative medication he was being given.

She said she was advised to stop the medication.

Paramedic Gary Mason, who was on the first ambulance, told the coroner he had no recollection of the incident.

An ambulance crew could never refuse to take a patient to hospital and he could not have left the house if Mrs Sala was asking him to take Leo to hospital, he said.

"There was obviously a language barrier.

"All of the information was not communicated to us," said Mr Mason.

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