Tuesday 20 March 2018

'My daughter walked into hospital and left in a coffin'

Georgina O'Halloran

THE heartbroken father of a 29-year-old woman who died of heart failure just weeks before her wedding day has told an inquest that his daughter "walked into Tallaght Hospital and came out in a coffin".

Jennifer Gunning (29), of Raheen Road, Tallaght, Dublin 24, died at Tallaght Hospital on April 6, 2010, having been admitted the day before with weakness in her left hand and a fast heart rate.

Dublin County Coroner's Court heard Ms Gunning suffered a drop in blood pressure after the administration of a heart medication called amiodorone and was rushed to the coronary care unit.

She died following attempts by doctors to shock her heart to a normal rhythm.

Coroner Dr Kieran Geraghty recorded a cause of death of heart failure due to acute low blood pressure secondary to an undetermined cause.

Enlargement of her heart and the administration of the medication amiodorone were contributory factors, he said.

"We know she collapsed within minutes of getting amiodorone," said Dr Geraghty.

He recorded a verdict of natural death complicated by amiodorone administration.

Speaking from the body of the court, her father Charlie told the coroner that Jennifer, "walked into Tallaght Hospital and came out in a coffin".

The inquest heard Ms Gunning, who was due to get married to her fiance Daniele Celeghin in Italy on April 24, complained of a sudden numbness in her left hand on April 5.


Her brother David told his sister, who had been planning her wedding that morning, she "did not want a dodgy wedding ring finger", and drove her to hospital at around 5.30pm.

Tests indicated an irregular and fast heart rhythm, which could have been going on for up to two weeks, the inquest heard.

She was given a beta blocker medication and was seen by a cardiology registrar at 9.45pm, four hours after her arrival.

Ms Gunning, whose blood pressure had fallen since her arrival at hospital, later received amiodorone.

A short time after receiving the amiodorone infusion she complained of abdominal pain and vomited and her blood pressure dropped.

The infusion was continued and she was rushed to the coronary care unit.

Her mother, Mary Gunning, said her daughter was laughing and joking with her and when she came back to the hospital she heard her "roaring" that she had a terrible pain in her stomach.

"I heard my daughter's last two words roaring out were 'I'm dying' and that's very hard to live with," she said.

Cardiac registrar Dr Barkat Ullah Khan who administered the amiodorone said he thought it was the "best choice" and would return her heart to a regular rhythm.

A consultant cardiologist at the Mater Hospital, who was not involved in her treatment, Dr Joseph Galvin, said the amiodorone seemed to worsen the blood pressure and she never seemed to really recover from that drug.

He said if she had suffered abdominal pain, he would probably have stopped the infusion.

Consultant cardiologist at Tallaght Hospital Dr David Moore, who was on his way to see Ms Gunning when she was pronounced dead, said that in his opinion the amiodorone was an appropriate decision.

Dr Geraghty said he found it hard to accept that a drug that had such a "dramatic effect that you would continue to give it".

"Jennifer had a big personality. We are a very tight family and she is missed terribly by us and many friends," said a spokesman for the Gunning family, solicitor James McSweeney.

Irish Independent

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