Woman left paralysed and almost blind after aneurysm secures €5m

Bernadette Surlis sued HSE alleging negligence in care at Sligo General Hospital in 2013

A woman left almost completely blind and paralysed down the right side of her body due to a delay in diagnosing and treating an aneurysm has secured €5 million under a settlement of her High Court action.

Bernadette Surlis (60), from Drinaum, Strokestown, Co Roscommon, is now confined to a wheelchair and living in a nursing home.

Her “overriding, perhaps her only remaining ambition” is to be able to go home, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told.

It was hoped the settlement would mean her ambition will be achieved, her counsel Michael Cush SC said.


Ms Surlis, a mother of three adult children, sued the HSE alleging negligence in her care and treatment at Sligo General Hospital in November 2013.

On Wednesday, Mr Cush said liability was admitted and it was accepted that had Ms Surlis been appropriately and promptly diagnosed and treated, she would not have suffered the injuries.

‘Very sad case’

This was a “very sad case” involving acquired brain injury, he said.

Ms Surlis went to the Sligo hospital on November 3rd, 2013 complaining of headache, vomiting and a dilated left eye pupil. She was triaged and left waiting for three hours, he said. She was investigated for glaucoma and discharged but returned the following day when the seriousness of her condition was “appreciated for the first time”. Only when her sister approached staff was she seen by a doctor.

The aneurysm ruptured at about 7.30pm on November 4th and she was transferred to Beaumont until 1am on November 5th. This was “too late”, as she had suffered haemorrhage and severe and permanent injury, counsel said.

Ms Surlis spent the following year between hospitals and later in the National Rehabilitation Centre before being moved to the nursing home.

Her eldest son Daniel and daughter Carla are working while her younger son, Enda, is in college, she has four sisters living locally and the entire family shares her determination to return home, Mr Cush added.

Full-time care

The consensus among the experts is Ms Surlis’s condition will not improve except marginally and she will need full-time care, he said. She is aware of her condition and has difficulties communicating, but can do so with her family’s assistance, he added.

Arising from the alleged delay in diagnosis and treatment, she suffered a rupture of the aneurysm and sub-arachnoid haemorrhage, making her case much more serious and her treatment more difficult, it was claimed.

Mr Justice Cross said the settlement was a “reasonable and very good” one, and he had no hesitation approving it. Insofar as money can compensate, this would provide the best compensation possible for Ms Surlis to live out her life, hopefully in her home, he said.

Outside court, Ms Surlis's children, accompanied by their solicitor, Damien Tansey, said it had been a long and difficult few years since 2013 but she and they welcomed the settlement and hoped it would ensure she would spend Christmas 2018 back at home.

"It's been really hard, it's torn apart our whole family, we lost our Mom and our whole family home was gone," Carla Surlis said. "Hopefully she'll be home this time next year, it's been a long few years now without her. Once she's home, it will be better."

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times