A man who died in UHG, seven days after collapsing in a friend’s garden last year, was found to have had a highly-infectious disease which had not been communicated to mortuary staff, an Inquest into his death heard.
Coroner for West Galway, Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin, said that while his main concern was for the people that his office employed, this was also a wider public health issue that needed to be further investigated.
“He had a contagious infectious condition, and because the people in the (mortuary) lab weren’t informed, the risk could have been passed on,” he said.
“People should be warned if someone has an infectious disease.”
He determined the cause of death, in accordance with the medical evidence, but deferred the case for another month to allow the consultant in charge at the time of his admission the opportunity to account for his or her actions.
Joseph McDonagh (65), of 68 Walter Macken Place, Mervue, died in UHG on August 1, 2017, having been admitted with a skull fracture a week earlier.
A family friend had told the inquest that he had called unexpectedly to her house in Bohermore on the evening of July 23 last. He was quite intoxicated on leaving, and had insisted on walking home. Early the next morning, however, a neighbour knocked at her door to say that a man was lying in her garden.
“She told me not to bother him, that he had been causing trouble,” the neighbour recalled in her deposition.
“I told her there was blood all over his head.”
He was taken to the emergency department of UHG, where his Glasgow Coma Scale, which records a patient’s level of consciousness, was 3/15. A CT brain scan revealed a severe head injury, and neurosurgeons in Beaumont Hospital deemed him unfit for transfer or for surgical intervention.
He was subsequently admitted to the Intensive Care Unit for one-to-one care.
Following hospital admission, Gardaí carried out door-to-door enquiries in the vicinity, but no neighbours recalled anything out of the normal.
“We did not establish any foul play in the head injuries sustained by Mr McDonagh,” Detective Garda Tom Doyle, told the inquiry.
Mr McDonagh’s condition did not improve, however, and he passed away on the morning of August 1 2017. Death was pronounced at 2.15am, and his remains were identified to Garda Damian Walsh by Mr McDonagh’s sister, Bridie Lawlor.
The death was reported to the Coroner, as are all unexpected deaths, and he directed consultant pathologist, Dr Margaret Sheehan, to carry out a post mortem examination.
While perusing past medical records, however, Dr Sheehan discovered that Mr McDonagh had the Hepatitis C Virus, an infectious disease affecting the liver that is spread by blood-to-blood contact.
She pointed out that neither she, nor the staff assisting her, had been warned of this.
She concluded that death was due to a massive traumatic injury to the brain, associated with a significant skull fracture. Pulmonary oedema and bronchopneumonia would have occurred after the injury, she added.
Dr MacLoughlin adjourned the inquiry for a month for the consultant on duty to make a statement, and to appear in person, to explain why a toxicology screening had not been performed on admission, including a blood/alcohol reading, and why mortuary staff had not been advised of the inherent danger posed by Mr McDonagh’s blood.
“This is a serious public health issue,” he said.
“Because I employ the consultant and mortuary technician, it is incumbent on me to ensure that the highest standards of health are afforded to all of these people.”
He advised the large McDonagh family, however, that despite this unresolved matter, a death certificate would be made available within a week.
He concluded that death was due to bronchial pneumonia and pulmonary oedema, as a result of a traumatic brain injury and a fractured skull, sustained in a fall.
“There is no evidence that he was the victim of an assault,” he added.
“A death certificate will be available, but we will call the consultant (on duty) to explain why the lab (mortuary) was not informed, and why an alcohol level was not taken on admission.”
The Coroner has also sought to find out if other hospital staff knew Mr McDonagh had this virus, and were barrier nursing care methods put in place as a result.
Brave Holly’s battle against leukaemia
A keen young camogie player from Knocknacarra diagnosed with leukaemia at the start of the first lockdown has now learned that she has lost her sight in one eye due to a rare complication.
Holly McAlinney was the picture of health at age seven. Her mother Sharon remembers the day schools were closed last March that her teacher had remarked that Holly had difficulty hearing in class.
She took her to the GP, thinking it was an ear infection and then her jaw swelled up so she thought it may have been her adenoids acting up. When medication did nothing to relieve the symptoms, they sent off a blood test.
“I went to the doctor with her on my own, you were only allowed one parent in at a time. They asked if I could call my husband so I knew things were bad. They confirmed it was leukaemia on a Wednesday and on the Monday we were in Crumlin Children’s Hospital getting chemotherapy – that’s how quickly it’s all been.”
Holly is now in the middle of her fourth round of chemo, which she undergoes weekly one day a week in the Dublin hospital. When she finishes this, she will have a fifth round given over two years to ensure the cancer doesn’t return.
Her medical team are extremely positive about her prospects. There is currently a 98 per cent survival rate with leukaemia, which is of course a huge relief to family and friends.
But things haven’t gone plain sailing throughout the treatment. Holly developed ulcers on her duodenum which left her in intensive care for a spell. And then last week, the family learned that the leukaemia had infiltrated her left eye, leaving a gap which could result in permanent blindness.
“We’re seeing a specialist in University Hospital Galway (UHG) next week but we don’t hold out much hope the sight will come back. Holly’s the most upbeat of all of us because she’s so young – she can’t see the repercussions into the future.
“That’s the way she’s been throughout the treatment. The first two rounds were heavy and the third quite light so she bounced right back. She was in school September and October, you wouldn’t know she was sick, and we felt she was safe because everything was so clean and with all the bubbles.
“It was right back down with the fourth round which was the heaviest so she can’t go see anyone just her brother – it’s heart-breaking.”
Her school friends have been keeping in touch by sending videos and cards to Holly to cheer her up.
While camogie and swimming will be out of the occasion for the foreseeable future, Sharon is confident they can find other hobbies that will enthral Holly, who is a very sociable and sporty girl. Sharon trains Holly with the U-8 camogie team with Salthill-Knocknacarra GAA.
The frequent trips to Dublin and hospital appointments has meant that Sharon has had to give up her job working in the Little Stars Montessori on the Cappagh Road, where son Alex still attends afterschool. Dad Rob works as an alarm engineer.
New mothers that Sharon met in Holly’s parent and baby group in Knocknacarra have organised a fundraiser to help the family get through the financial stress of coping with cancer.
They are planning a hike on December 6 at Diamond Hill, Connemara and have already raised €16,000 in donations.
“Rob and I are both from Salthill, but it’s been amazing the amount of people we wouldn’t have heard or seen in years who have contacted us to offer support. It’s only when you’re in trouble that you realise how good people can be.”
■ To make a donation, log on to GoFundMe
Proposals to change speed limits in Galway City are voted down
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Planned speed limit changes for Galway City are stuck in the slow lane after councillors rejected a proposal for new bylaws.
The bylaws would have introduced a 30km/h zone in the city centre and 19 other changes, including increased speed limits in areas such as Bóthar na dTreabh to 80km/h.
Management at City Hall have now been sent back to the drawing board to draft new speed limit bylaws after a majority of elected members voted against them – it could at least two years before new proposals are ready.
At a meeting this week, several councillors spoke out against plans to increase speed limits to 80km/h on approach roads into the city.
Many of them criticised the system of selecting roads for speed limit changes, lashed the public consultation process and decried the lack of input from councillors, despite speed limits being a reserved function of elected members.
Councillors were particularly peeved that the proposal had to be accepted in its entirety, without amendments, or rejected outright – they could not pick and choose individual changes.
Deputy Mayor Collette Connolly (Ind) led the charge against the bylaws, which she described as “idiotic”.
She lambasted the “incomprehensible decision” not to lower speed limits to 30km/h outside schools and she said it was “utter raiméis” (nonsense) that speeds can’t be lowered to 30km/h, if 85% of the traffic on that road travels at 50km/h.
Cllr Connolly said the bylaws were “flawed”, and cited the decision to leave Rahoon Road/Shantalla Road at 50km/h, despite a crèche and two schools on other roads like Lough Atalia remaining at 30km/h.
(Photo: A speed van on Bóthar na dTreabh on Thursday morning)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, including how each councillor voted and a map of the proposed changes, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Corrib to be opened up as new tourism and leisure blueway
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The first steps are to be taken next year to explore the development of a ‘blueway’ tourism and leisure trail along the River Corrib, from Nimmo’s Pier and onto the lake itself.
This week, Galway City Council Chief Executive, Brendan McGrath, confirmed to the Galway City Tribune, that monies had been set aside to begin exploratory work on what will be known as the Great Western Blueway.
A figure of €65,000 has been allocated in the City Council’s 2021 annual budget to commission an initial study of what’s involved in the setting up a blueway trail on the Corrib.
“The Corrib river and the lake are a most wonderful natural asset for the entire western region and I have no doubt that this project has fantastic potential in terms of enhancing the tourism pulling power of the city and its environs,” Mr McGrath told the Galway City Tribune this week.
Should the project come to fruition, it would be the fifth such waterway attraction to be developed in the island of Ireland.
Already there are Blueways on the Shannon, from Drumshanbo to Lanesboro; the Shannon-Erne project from Leitrim village to Belturbet (Cavan); the Royal Canal at Mullingar; and at Lough Derg from Portumna to Scariff in Clare.
According to Mr McGrath, the attractions developed along the Great Western Blueway would be environmentally friendly, featuring such attractions as kayaking, paddling, adjacent cycle trails as well as scenic walkways and visitor centres.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.