Mum who had diabetes since age 2 died from brain injury due to low blood sugar

By Louise Roseingrave

A diabetic mother of two died of a brain injury after her blood sugars dropped to fatal levels.

Valerie Sherlock (35) from Westbrook, Balbriggan, Co Dublin was found unresponsive in bed on September 21 2015. The woman, described as "full of fun", was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 2.

She was due to celebrate her birthday the week she died and had been in "great form", Dublin Coroner’s Court heard.

Her husband Brian Sherlock said she was in good spirits the night before.

“She was in great form; the uniforms were ironed and ready for the next day,” he said. The next morning he discovered his wife unconscious in bed.

“She was drooling and I was worried she’d gone into a diabetic coma,” he said. He called paramedics who administered insulin on arrival.

Mrs Sherlock was rushed to Beaumont Hospital where an MRI scan revealed she had suffered a brain injury due to hypoglycemia.

Mrs Sherlock managed her diabetes with a pump mechanism to administer insulin rather than injections. She’d been using the pump since 2009 and had a series of instructive appointments on how to use it.

“It’s an intensive process that requires a lot of education and carbohydrate counting around how to match bolus insulin frequency,” consultant endocrinologist Dr Diarmuid Smith said.

He’d known Mrs Sherlock for a number of years and described her as an "incredible person".

“She was full of fun, mischievous, always up for a laugh with a generous personality. She was extremely proud of her children; she felt they were her best achievement in life,” Dr Smith said.

The woman was profoundly unconscious on arrival at hospital.

A toxicology report on arrival found the woman had a blood alcohol level of 49 milligrams per cent. The medical team examined the insulin pump and found it had delivered a total of 68 units of insulin over a short period of time, likely between 3am and 5am.

The pump was examined and it was found to be in good working order.

Dr Smith said the insulin had been self-administered and said his team were concerned the woman’s "judgement may have been clouded" given the result of the toxicology test.

She died on October 5 2015.

An autopsy gave the cause of death as hypoglycemic brain injury.

Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane returned a narrative verdict as there was "insufficient evidence to fully explain the what gave rise to the delivery of 68 units of insulin early in the morning".

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