Disabled man secures €4m payment from HSE after ‘torturous’ journey

Court told hospital failed to diagnose Oisín Fitzpatrick with viral encephalitis in a reasonable time

Marion Fitzpatrick leaving the Four Courts after her disabled son Oisín secured a €4million interim payment at the  High Court. Photographed: Collins Courts.

Marion Fitzpatrick leaving the Four Courts after her disabled son Oisín secured a €4million interim payment at the High Court. Photographed: Collins Courts.

 

A judge has praised the “heroism” of a woman who has singlehandedly cared for her disabled son for the last 19 years as the family secured a €4 million interim payment under a settlement of a High Court action over his hospital care.

Oisín Fitzpatrick (now aged 21) was a healthy 22-month-old when he became ill and was referred to University Hospital, Galway, the court was told.

He was treated over a number of days before a diagnosis of viral encephalitis was made and a drug to treat and combat herpes simplex encephalitis was provided.

The court heard Mr Fitzpatrick now has cerebral palsy, is confined to a wheechair, is spastic quadriplegic and cannot talk. He is a very contented happy young man but the journey for his mother Marion Fitzpatrick, including litigation, had been “torturous”, his counsel Oonagh McCrann SC said.

Approving the settlement with an interim payment for the next three years, the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly praised Ms Fitzpatrick.

Noting the HSE, as part of the settlement, had agreed Mr Fitzpatrick should have two carers, one a qualified nurse, the judge said his mother had “looked after him singlehandedly and alone” for 19 years.

“That is the measure of the heroism she has demonstrated.”

Sacrifice

Ms Fitzpatrick broke down when the judge said that while her son could not tell her of the regard in which he holds her. He said the court believed, that if he could speak, the young man would praise the extent of the sacrifice she had made for him.

Through his mother, Mr Fitzpatrick, of Ballyglunin, Tuam, Co Galway, sued the HSE over his care at University Hospital, Galway after being admitted for treatment on September 16th, 1998. It was claimed the child was drowsy, appeared pale, had a high temperature, a 24 hour history of vomiting and had suffered a seizure prior to admission.

It was claimed, following examination, the impression was he had experienced a seizure associated with his fever. He was admitted for tests but continued to have a high swinging temperature and suffered further seizures.

On September 20th, 1998, according to nursing notes, a diagnosis of viral encephalitis was made following a review by a paediatric consultant and Acyclovir, a drug to treat and combat herpes simplex encephalitis, was commenced.

Later that evening, the toddler was transferred to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, where, following investigations and a CT scan, it was confirmed the likely cause of his viral encephalitis was the herpes simplex virus.

It was claimed the Galway hospital failed to diagnose the toddler’s viral encephalitis was due to herpes simplex within a reasonable time and similarly failed to commence administering Acyclovir.

The claims were denied.

The case will come back before the court in three years time for assessment of future care needs.