Sunday 19 November 2017

'We're here so this won't happen to another child'

Shane Hickey

IT would be a nightmare for any parent.

But it has been a nightmare that Jennifer Stewart and Oliver Conroy have had to relive every day of the inquiry -- how the wrong kidney was taken from their young son.

Sitting together at the back of the hearing room in the Irish Medical Council's headquarters in central Dublin, the pair have listened intently to detailed testimony of their attempts to alert medical staff.

The couple say they said four times that the wrong kidney was to be removed from their young son, who was then aged just six.

Two months before the operation took place, they had met with Professor Martin Corbally -- now the most senior ranked paediatric surgeon in Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin, Dublin -- who told them the operation would be carried out on the right side kidney, which had just 9pc functionality.

Alarm bells started to ring on the day of the operation when the couple, who are from Dublin, realised the healthy left kidney was to be taken out.


A cascade of queries started from the parents, who clearly recalled that the right kidney was to be taken out.

But due to an error by Prof Corbally, and a series of 'brakes' not being in place, the operation proceeded and the incorrect, and healthy, kidney was taken from their son.

After four hours -- two and a half hours longer than the operation should have taken -- Prof Corbally emerged from the operating theatre to tell them the dire news.

"I had a very sad and difficult task to explain to both the parents, as best I could, an error had occurred and the wrong kidney had been removed," Prof Corbally said yesterday at the third day of the hearing.

"I apologised profoundly to both the parents. The memory of that conversation will live with me for a long time. They were absolutely devastated and distraught by it."

The young boy, who is now eight years old, has been left with a kidney which has just a fraction of the strength of the removed healthy one. The years ahead hold the possibility of dialysis and a kidney transplant may be his only option.

When the Medical Council hearing opened in May, Ms Stewart was clear as to why she had taken the stand in the fitness-to-practise case.

"The reason why we are here today is so that this will never happen to another child again," she said.

Irish Independent

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