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I was left blind by care error says garda

A GARDA sergeant claimed he has been left blind due to a failure to promptly diagnose a serious eye infection linked to wearing contact lenses.

Father-of-two Niall Fitz- patrick (47), from Boher, Co Limerick, has launched a High Court medical negligence action against both the Health Services Executive and consultant eye specialist Raymond Niland.

They deny the claims.

Mr Fitzpatrick was on the brink of being promoted to head of a garda drugs squad at Limerick's Henry Street Garda Station before he contracted the condition in 2005.

Opening the case for Mr Fitzpatrick, Liam Reidy told Justice Mary Irvine the first symptoms of the garda's condition began in June 2005 -- just three months later his eyesight had deteriorated dramatically.

Mr Reidy said Mr Fitzpatrick was seen on 11 occasions after visiting the A&E in the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick on June 12, 2005, until he was admitted to hospital on September 8, 2005.

During the three months all those who saw him failed to take "the most preliminary step towards diagnosing him" by taking an eye swab, he claimed.

He said doctors treated him for a viral keratitis when it turned out to be acanthamoeba keratitis (AK), a serious corneal infection, usually affecting contact lens wearers.

Mr Reidy told the court if the diagnosis of AK had been given earlier Mr Fitzpatrick would have made a full recovery.

Around June 8, 2005, Mr Fitzpatrick had a sore and red eye and mentioned it to his wife Michelle, who worked as a nurse in St John's Hospital, Limerick. She got him eye drops.

That Sunday, June 12, they were driving back from a family outing in Clare when he got "a blinding pain" in his eye and she drove him straight to the A&E at the Mid-West Regional Hospital in Limerick.

The ophthalmic registrar who saw him felt it was a viral keratitis infection. They returned to the hospital on several more occasions.

On August 2, his wife asked a doctor at her hospital to examine him and an appointment with Dr Niland was arranged for the following day.

Treatments

Mr Reidy told the court that on August 5 Ms Fitzpatrick mentioned going to a specialist service like the UK's Moorfields Eye Hospital and said: "I don't want my husband walking around with a white stick."

Following several more examinations he was admitted to the hospital on September 8. Mr Niland asked colleagues to review him. Both of them immediately diagnosed AK.

A professor took over Mr Fitzpatrick's care at the end of October after they sought a second opinion. He attempted various treatments but to "no avail".

In early 2006, they travelled to Moorfields in the UK and the specialist informed him he "would never see again".

Now, the court heard, he has no useful sight in his eyes, and can just make out where windows are in a room.

The case continues.