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Heart attack teen refused blood tests over fear of needles

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The Dublin Coroners Court, Store St. Pic Tom Burke.

The Dublin Coroners Court, Store St. Pic Tom Burke.

The Dublin Coroners Court, Store St. Pic Tom Burke.

A TEENAGER died from a heart attack within a week of being discharged from A&E at St James's Hospital without undergoing blood tests ordered to check if her heart was in difficulty.

Jesseca Finnerty (18) from Glen Easton Square, Leixlip in Co Kildare, died at Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, on September 8, 2012, having gone into cardiac arrest as medics attempted to ventilate her in intensive care.

Dublin Coroner's Court heard she attended A&E at St James's Hospital on September 3 with heart palpitations, a fast heartbeat and shortness of breath. The emergency registrar who initially saw her ordered that blood samples be taken to help determine the problem.

However, Ms Finnerty, who had a fear of needles, refused to allow her blood to be taken and was, subsequently, discharged. A chest x-ray was not taken.

The precise cause of death has yet to be heard with the pathologist giving evidence at the next sitting, however, coroner Dr Brian Farrell said his report indicates evidence of damage to the heart muscle over time.

The inquest heard that Ms Finnerty had suffered from severe anxiety in the past and was taking anti-anxiety medication Sertraline.

Her mother Freda Finnerty told the court that she felt staff at St James's focussed on her daughter's mental health rather than her physical health.

She said that while Jessica had suffered from anxiety in the past, she had never had these symptoms before.

Discharged

Ms Finnerty was seen by Dr Susan Fletcher-Jones, senior house officer, following a shift handover from the emergency registrar who had left a final instruction that bloods should be taken and if they came back normal, she could be discharged.

Dr Fletcher-Jones said she spent an hour trying to build a rapport with Ms Finnerty to put her at ease, but after three attempts to take bloods Ms Finnerty's mother had intervened.

"Jesseca's mother intervened and said 'if she doesn't want it done, we will leave it'. I could not take the blood samples without the patient's consent," Dr Fletcher-Jones said.

She advised Ms Finnerty and her mother that she should come back to A&E if she became symptomatic again.

When asked by Dr Farrell if she had brought the fact she was not permitted to take bloods to the attention of a senior staff member, Dr Fletcher-Jones said she "cannot recall" whether she had or not.

The inquest was adjourned to December 16.

hnews@herald.ie


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