The widow of Waterford farmer Tom Power (40), who died when being transferred by ambulance from University Hospital Waterford to Cork, has urged the Government to improve cardiac services in the southeast.
Bernadette Power, who gave birth to the couple's only child, Tom, in November, six months after the death of her husband, said she never thought when she married her husband in September 2016 that she would be attending his inquest less than two years later.
Ms Power sat through some harrowing evidence during the five-hour hearing at Cork City Coroner’s Court when she heard how her late husband had suffered a heart attack between three and seven days before he started complaining of chest pains on their farm in Co Waterford on June 18th, 2017.
She listened, surrounded by family and friends, as Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster told how Mr Power died following a rupture to his heart muscle several days after it had been weakened by the heart attack that he either had not noticed or had not reported.
Ms Power listened as Dr Ross Murphy, a consultant cardiologist at St Vincent's who reviewed the case at the request of Cork City coroner Philip Comyn, revealed between 5 per cent and 10 per cent of people who have heart attacks show no symptoms of the event.
However, Mr Power’s heart attack weakened the muscle in his heart and left it vulnerable to rupture, and he suffered a huge 3cm rupture that would have necessitated immediate full open-heart surgery if he was to stand any chance of survival, Dr Murphy told the inquest.
The inquest heard Mr Power’s condition deteriorated while being transferred by ambulance from University Hospital Waterford (UHW) to Cork University Hospital (CUH) at around 12.45pm on Sunday, June 18th, 2017, because the cath lab in Waterford is only operational between 9am and 5pm from Monday to Friday.
Afterward Ms Power issued a statement that was read to the media by her solicitor, Gillian O’Mahony, in which she said she was “now relieved to know what caused my husband Tom’s death after many months of wondering”.
She thanked staff at UHW for their treatment of her late husband, and she also thanked them for the way they looked after her through her pregnancy and for the care they gave her son when he was born at the Ardkeen hospital on November 22nd.
Ms Power also thanked the staff at CUH for their courtesy and kindness when she arrived there, expecting Tom to follow on only for him to be pronounced dead shortly after arrival on the ambulance transfer from Waterford.
"To my family, friends and neighbours, both in Wexford and Waterford, I would like to say thank you for all your help and support you gave me after Tom died and which you continue to give me, The past year has been a very difficult time for me, and your support did not go unnoticed."
She urged the Government to improve cardiac services in the southeast, and although medical experts had ruled out the lack of a second cath lab at UHW being a factor in her husband’s death, Ms Power urged the Government to provide such a facility to provide 24/7 cardiac cover.
Ms Power’s comments regarding cardiac services in the southeast were echoed by Mr Power’s parents, Michael and Eileen, and his sisters, Joan and Catherine, who said their son and brother was disadvantaged by the lack of proper cardiac services in Waterford
“He did not have access to a full cardiac centre - give this to the people of the southeast, it’s what they deserve and give it to them now,” said the Power family after the coroner extended his sympathies to them and to Ms Power.