A 34-year-old woman who lay dead in the toilets of University Hospital Galway for up to twelve hours died as a result of a lethal level of alcohol intoxication, an inquest into her death heard.
Ewelina Cieślak, a Polish national who had been a resident at Galway Simon’s high-support accommodation in Newcastle, was found dead in a disabled toilet at the hospital’s Emergency Department on Monday morning, August 7, 2017.
In evidence given to the inquest, Housing Support Assistant with Galway Simon, Nadine Hughes, said Ms Cieślak had addiction problems with alcohol, but had been sober on the Sunday afternoon when she left her accommodation in Hazel Park.
“Ewelina had been drinking on Saturday, August 5, but had been sober when I was talking to her on Sunday, August 6,” Ms Hughes told Coroner for Galway West, Dr Ciarán MacLoughlin.
“She told me she was going out but she did not say where. We had agreed to keep in contact by phone, as per our protocol,” she continued.
Ms Hughes explained that residents were not obliged to stay with them if they did not want to, but they were always encouraged to return at night.
Several attempts were made to contact Ms Cieślak throughout Sunday night, August 7, but her phone was switched off – something Ms Hughes said was not unusual for Ms Cieślak.
Ms Cieślak was found by security staff at UHG behind the locked door of the disabled toilet at 6.30am the following morning.
Security guard at the hospital, Keith Moggan, told the inquest that he had entered the toilet when an unrelated “suspicious male” he had been watching went missing sometime before 6.30am.
“When I discovered the disabled toilets were locked, I went to get the keys from the office and on opening the door, I discovered a female who I now know to have been Ewelina Cieślak.
“I sent a security officer who had followed me to get help,” said Mr Moggan.
He said that as the toilet was in full view of patients outside, he closed the door before checking for a pulse. He said he could not find one and that the body was cold to the touch.
Ms Cieślak was rushed to the resuscitation room where staff at the hospital attempted to revive her but she was pronounced dead at 6.43am.
Mr Moggan said he checked CCTV footage of the area a short time later from which he could identify Ms Cieślak entering the toilet at 6.57pm on Sunday evening.
Nobody had accessed the toilet in the hours between Ms Cieślak’s entry and his opening of the door at 6.30am the following morning.
“At approximately 6.45am, a member of the nursing staff ordered that I open the toilet and we searched it,” said Mr Moggan.
Their search uncovered four empty 200ml bottles of vodka discarded in the waste and sanitation bins.
Noonan, the company contracted to provide cleaning services for the Saolta Hospital Group, were represented by Account Director, Rachel Naylor.
Ms Naylor said it was their policy to check the toilets at least every two hours.
On the night in question, Ms Naylor said attempts had been made to access the toilet where Ms Cieślak was found on three separate occasions – at 6.30pm, 9pm and 11pm.
She said because of the staff member’s inability to gain access, it had been assumed the toilet was out of order.
“There have been occasions in the past when hospital security would lock the toilets as they may require a maintenance person to attend.
“This has happened in the past and no ‘out of order’ sign was placed on the door,” said Ms Naylor.
She said staffing levels were normal on August 6 and 7, 2017, and that it had been standard procedure to make a note of failure to access toilets and inform a senior manager upon their arrival at 7am.
Since the death of Ms Cieślak, Noonan and hospital management have added a new regulation to their procedure requiring cleaning staff to contact security if they cannot gain access for an extended period.
“If a toilet is occupied for a period of 30 minutes or more, security must be notified to see if the occupant is safe,” said Ms Naylor, adding that Noonan cleaning staff do not have keys to enter once the door is locked from the inside.
Coroner, Dr MacLoughlin, reading into evidence the report of Consultant Pathologist, Dr Yi Ling Khaw, said that Ms Cieślak’s blood alcohol level was 576mg per 100ml.
“Alcohol levels may be toxic from 100 to 450mg, while lethal is between 400 and 600mg.
“Ewelina Cieślak died on August 7, 2017 at University Hospital Galway. The cause of death, in accordance with the medical evidence, is alcohol intoxication,” said Mr MacLoughlin.
He said that another significant condition that was contributory, but not the cause of Ms Cieślak’s death, was a diseased and fatty liver.
Members of Ms Cieślak’s family had travelled from Poland to attend the inquest and speaking through an interpreter, Dr MacLoughlin extended his condolences to her mother, Joanna, and daughter, Greta – as well as members of her immediate family and friends.
“The inquest is not in a position to make any recommendation as the cleaning company and the HSE have learned from the tragic circumstances of Ewelina’s death and have put in place protocols to avoid it happening again,” concluded Dr MacLoughlin.
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.