Family ‘consumed’ over how daughter’s condition addressed

Aibha Conroy died at Temple Street Children’s Hospital on December 14th, 2011

The inquest into the death of Aibha Conroy has heard that the possibility the six-year-old’s underlying medical condition had not been effectively addressed is “consuming” her family, a solicitor claimed on Monday.

A doctor and three nurses from Galway University Hospital on Monday gave evidence at the inquest, which was attended by Aibha's mother, Kathleen Conroy, her father John and her sister Sorcha, all of Gowla, Cashel, Connemara, Co Galway.

The Conroy family's solicitor, Damien Tansey, indicated to the inquest that Aibha's parents believe their daughter's potential hormonal abnormalities were not effectively addressed by healthcare professionals.

‘Consuming them’

This idea that her health issues were not effectively addressed “is eating them up” and “consuming them”, Mr Tansey told the inquest.

The inquest heard Aibha was critically ill when she was transferred from the intensive care unit (ICU) at Galway University Hospital to the ICU at Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin on December 11th, 2011.

Her parents, however, were unaware of the severity of her condition, Mr Tansey said, and did not realise her hours in the ambulance while she was being transferred to Dublin were some of her last.

Aibha’s parents are “haunted” by the thought their beloved daughter spent some of her final hours without them by her side, Mr Tansey said.

Aibha died at Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin on December 14th, 2011. Four days previously, she had been admitted to GUH suffering from hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar, and weakness. She was also vomiting.

Respiratory arrest

She initially responded to treatment when admitted to GUH on December 11th but within 90 minutes suffered respiratory arrest and had to be resuscitated.

Aibha was subsequently transferred to the ICU at GUH, but then suffered brain damage within a couple of hours.

She was transferred to Temple Street on the afternoon of December 11th.

Aibha had been admitted to GUH on two previous occasions, in August 2011 and March 2010. On both occasions she was treated for hypoglycaemia by the administration of intravenous fluids, and the issue was resolved.

Dr Ana Louise Hawke, who was working as a senior house office at GUH in August 2011, told the inquest she transcribed the notes of Aibha’s case from the computer into the girl’s medical chart.

At the request of the consultant with whom she worked, she also initiated contact with Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin about the possibility of tests there.

Dr Hawke said she does not recall meeting Aibha at any point, and was just giving evidence to the inquest based on what was written in her notes. Dr Hawke insisted she made no decisions in regard to Aibha’s treatment.

Mr Tansey questioned whether Dr Hawke recalled having a conversation with someone in Crumlin children’s hospital, and whether she told someone about Aibha’s prior issues with hypoglycaemia.

Dr Hawke said she did recall receiving a phone call from Crumlin but had no memory of the conversation.

Blood sugar levels

At the time, Dr Hawke wrote on Aibha’s chart that colleagues in Crumlin said they would be happy to accept Aibha into their care if her blood sugar levels went below 2.6.

Under questioning from Mr Tansey, Dr Hawke said she knew Aibha was admitted to the hospital suffering from hypoglycaemia, a dangerous condition.

When Aibha was discharged from GUH on August 24th 2011, her mother was under the impression she would be seeing doctors in Crumlin in a few days, according to Dr Tansey. This never happened.

Kathleen Conroy previously told the inquest she believed her daughter would be alive if she had been referred to Crumlin for testing for potential hormonal abnormalities.

Mr Tansey told the inquest there is compelling evidence that Aibha had hormonal abnormalities.

“It’s eating the Conroys up that this was never effectively addressed,” he said. “It’s consuming them.”

Marina O'Flanagan, who was working as a nurse in the emergency department at GUH on December 11th, 2011, as well as ICU nurse Niamh Colleran, also gave evidence at the inquest on Monday.

Although the both were involved in the care of Aibha, they did not recall her or her family specifically.

Dextrose dose

Mr Tansey questioned Ms Flanagan over a dose of dextrose, used to treat people suffering from hypoglycaemia, that Aibha was administered on December 11th, when she was admitted into GUH for the third time.

He said this dose was half that she had been administered previously, even though the previous doses had been effective in helping return her blood sugar to an appropriate level.

During his questioning of Ms Colleran, Mr Tansey said the Conroys did not realise the critical state in which Aibha was in when she left GUH to transfer by ambulance to Dublin.

Mr Tansey brought up the issue of Aibha's condition with Eithne Fox, an ICU nurse who travelled in the ambulance with the girl to Dublin.

The solicitor reiterated that Aibha’s parents did not know how ill she was when she left Galway.

“It’s haunting them that they didn’t know that,” said Mr Tansey, despite the fact they interacted with staff throughout Aibha’s care.

This week marks the third time in which the inquest into Aibha’s death - the underlying cause of which has yet to be established - has been convened.

The inquest continues on Tuesday.

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