herald

Wednesday 15 August 2018

Doctor died days after being sent home from A&E with a 'migraine'

A DOCTOR who died after emergency brain surgery had been discharged from hospital just days earlier after being told she had a migraine.

Niamh Long (40), a Cork-based GP and mother-of-three, died on January 12.

Just six days earlier, Cork University Hospital (CUH) emergency department registrar Dr Gergely Halasz diagnosed her as suffering from a migraine or cluster headache.

Dr Halasz, who had been working at CUH since the previous September, is also alleged to have prescribed Ms Long a medication which was not licensed in Ireland.

An inquest heard yesterday that Ms Long's husband, Eoin Clifford, had to return to CUH from a pharmacy and obtain a different prescription from another doctor.

Dr Halasz, described by neurosurgeon Prof Charles Marks as "an experienced registrar", acknowledged that his original assessment was wrong.

"My diagnosis was incorrect, that is true," he said.

However, he insisted that Ms Long of Endsleigh, Douglas Road, Cork, displayed no "red flag" symptoms that day which would have warranted a CT scan. No scan was ordered and Ms Long was sent home after spending around five hours in the A&E department. Ms Long's husband insisted that his wife -- an experienced GP who had to be brought to CUH that day by ambulance -- had sensitivity to light, neck pain, nausea and had lost consciousness.

Ms Long was brought back to CUH the following day by her husband after GP, Dr Kieran O'Keeffe, contacted Prof Stephen Cusack at the emergency department to say he was unhappy with her ongoing condition.

A CT scan revealed that she had suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage due to an aneurysm or 'blister' on the carotid artery.

The decision was made to operate on Ms Long but, during the surgery on January 8 to 'clip' the aneurysm, the metal clip sliced through the artery wall. Prof Marks, who Dr Long had served her internship with, tried desperately for an hour and a half to repair the hole in the artery but was unable to do so.

"I tried as hard as I could (to repair it). This was one-and-a-half hours of desperation. This was one of the most desperate things I have done in a long career in neurosurgery. I don't panic, but I was as close to panic as I get," he added.

Prof Marks said it was "a very tragic and painful case" given that he knew Dr Long and realised she had a husband and three young children.

Transplant

Ms Long died on January 11 and her organs were donated for transplant. A verdict of death by medical misadventure was returned.

Ms Long's husband, Eoin, told the Herald that her entire family are still reeling from their loss.

"Niamh was a wonderful wife and mother and her passing has left an incalculable void in the lives of those left behind including her family and our three beautiful girls (Laoise, Orla and Emer)," he said.

"Contrary to what I was told in the hospital things could have been done differently which would have increased Niamh's chances."

hnews@herald.ie

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