€5m settlement for woman left partially paralysed and almost completely blind after treatment delay

By Ann Loughlin

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

Bernadette Surlis,(60) from Drinaum, Strokestown, Co Roscommon, is confined to a wheelchair and is in a nursing home but her “overriding, perhaps her only remaining ambition” is to be able to go home, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told.

It was hoped the €5m settlement would mean her ambition will be achieved, her counsel Michael Cush SC said.

Enda, Carla and Daniel Surlis, children of Bernadette Surlis of Strokestown, Co. Roscommon pictured with Damian Tansey, solicitor for family, leaving the High Court in Dublin today after a €5m settlement hearing. Picture: CourtPix

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.

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

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

Ms Surlis, then aged 57, went to the Sligo hospital on November 3rd 2013 complaining of headache, vomiting and dilated left eye pupil but was triaged as category three and left waiting for three hours, he said. She was investigated for glaucoma and discharged but re-attended the following day when the seriousness of her condition was “appreciated for the first time”.

She was transferred “too late” to Dublin’s Beaumont hospital on November 5th as she had suffered haemorrhage and severe and permanent injury, counsel said. She 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, her younger son, Enda, is in college, she has four sisters living locally and the entire family shares her determination to return home, he added.

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

In her proceedings, Ms Surlis claimed she woke up on November 3rd 2013 with a severe pain in her head and a drooping/swelling left eye and had lost a little of her balance. She went to a doctor who thought she might be having a stroke and referred her to Sligo General Hospital.

When she went there about 4pm, she had an acute enlargement of a posterior communicating artery aneurysm but was not treated as an emergency and was left waiting for three hours, it was claimed. Only when her sister approached staff was she seen by a doctor.

The aneurysm had not ruptured at that stage and, had she been moved to Beaumont that day, she would probably have been treated successfully, leading to a full recovery, it was alleged.

The aneurysm ruptured about 7.30pm on November 4th and she was transferred to Beaumont until 1am on November 5th.

Arising from the alleged delay in diagnosis and treatment, she suffered a rupture of the aneurysm and sub-arachnoid haemeorrhage, 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’ 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 ...” 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.”

KEYWORDS: Court, Blindness


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