A mother told an inquest of her shock at learning her six-year-old daughter was dying just hours after staff at Galway University Hospital (GUH) assured her she would be 'okay'.
Kathleen Conroy was giving evidence at Dublin Coroner's Court at the inquest for her daughter Aibha Conroy from Gowla, Cashel in Connemara, Co Galway, who died at Temple Street Hospital on December 14th, 2011, three days after she was transferred there from Galway.
Aibha had been in intensive care at Galway having deteriorated rapidly after arriving at the emergency department at 12.45am on December 11th. She had been referred there by her GP suffering from vomiting, headache and low blood sugar at 1.9 millimoles. He had advised her parents to take her to hospital by car because an ambulance would take three hours and when they arrived at the emergency department, the court heard, her blood sugar had fallen further.
She was transferred to intensive care after hospital staff had to resuscitate her following collapse. Giving evidence on the second day of the inquest, Mrs Conroy said that she and her husband John were told Aibha was being transferred to Temple Street by ambulance because intensive care at Galway did not have the equipment to deal with a child. They were assured several times that she would be “okay”, she said.
However, when the couple arrived at Temple Street they were told their daughter had been transferred there “on life support” and that her “prognosis was poor”.
“This was the first time that we realised that we were going to lose our daughter,” she said, adding that they were in “shock” and “couldn’t accept it”.
The inquest previously heard that on a number of admissions at Galway, Aibha had displayed symptoms including vomiting and dehydration but no underlying cause was ever established. Mrs Conroy told the inquest that she would get better when intravenous fluids were administered over a number of days and that she would also improve when given sugary drinks.
Aibha was admitted to Galway hospital in August 2011 with a history of headache and vomiting. Mrs Conroy said that during this admission she was told by consultant paediatrician Dr Edina Moylett that Aibha would be referred to Crumlin within two to three days for blood tests - the 'Newcastle protocol' - but this never happened. "If she had gotten that referral, she would be alive now," she said.
Dr Moylett said she cannot explain why Mrs Conroy is “so convinced” that she told her Aibha was being referred to Crumlin. She said the plan was to refer Aibha to Crumlin if there were any abnormalities in her blood sample but initial tests were “not definitive”. Crumlin had indicated they would accept her if Dr Moylett believed it was necessary. Crumlin advised them to do the Newcastle protocol if her blood sugar fell below a particular level, she said, but Aibha’s levels were subsequently “normal” and the protocol was not carried out.
The inquest has yet to hear from the pathologist and the cause of death has not been determined.
Dr Moylett said that she had eliminated diabetes as a possible diagnosis and was concerned, due to Aibha’s physical appearance, that she may have a growth hormone or adrenal deficiency. However, she said that tests of her cortisol - a steroid released by the body to counter low blood sugar - showed a normal level in the range she was given by the laboratory.
Solicitor for the family Damien Tansey said he has been advised the cortisol level quoted by Dr Moylett is “not a normal reading” and describing it as such is a “mistake”.
The inquest continues.