No one should have to endure that psychological torment - Family who lost mother to medical misdiagnoses

Pictured are Christina 'Chrissie' McGagh's children, Thomas, Christina and Micheál.

A family, who lost their much-loved mother due to a medical misdiagnosis, are calling for tighter guidelines and procedures to be put in place in public hospitals nationwide, as they do not want others to suffer like they did.

The mother of five and grandmother of six, Christina 'Chrissie' McGagh, a nurse, suffered seven rib fractures after a serious fall down her stairs at home but the injuries were not identified despite being X-rayed at St Luke’s General Hospital in Kilkenny in October, 2012.

Five months later she was dead.

Her devastated family had no other option but to allow doctors to turn off the machines which were keeping her alive.

Now they want no other family to face what they and their mother had to endure. They want to highlight, how hospital failings in treatment led to their mother’s death, in a bid to stop others loosing a loved.

Mrs McGagh, from Ballon, Co Carlow, died in March 28 2013.

An apology was read in the High Court last week as Ms McGagh's son Tom, who had sued the HSE on behalf of the family, settled his action for €265,000.

Family spokesperson Kathryn McGagh, said that the past six years have been “such a struggle” for everyone,” from dealing with our mother’s accident, misdiagnoses, battle with hospital authorities, to her death and the length of time it took for this case to go to court.

The award of which, €175,000 is directly going to our father due to losing his wife, who was his carer and for his future medical needs. He now needs 24/7 care following his own fall and the entire family are looking after him. We hopefully have changed things the better in how care and carers are looked after.

"The remainder of the award goes to our medical insurance company, as we are very grateful for her having health insurance and felt a portion of the compensation should go back to them.”

Kathryn explained the torment the family went through is never far from their thoughts. “We regret not moving her sooner to a private or more specialised hospital but when you are told by the experts you have no injuries you believe them and trust them.

“My brothers, Thomas Jnr, Micheál, Brian, Helen and I on behalf of the entire family, now feel it was the best thing we could have done for our mother in taking this case. Thomas Jnr went through so much from dealing with medical staff, solicitors and barristers while trying to deal with his loss.

“His bravery to bring this case, resulted in us being able to highlight the past mistakes, and shortcomings of the hospital and HSE to the nation, in the hope that no other family has to ever experience the hardship and stress that was put upon us due to medical negligence.

“We hope above all else that the evidence which came out in this case causes policies and procedures at St Luke’s General Hospital in Kilkenny to be reviewed and changed for the betterment of every patient and family way into the future.

“The past cannot be changed but we hope our case changes the future for others out there especially HSE Management systems in order to truly give proper health care in Ireland going forward.

The Court outcome ends an era for our family but we pay the price every day for the loss of our wonderful mother, who was taken far too early. Had basic care been given, and a proper diagnosis made, her death could have so easily been avoided.”

Kathryn, herself a nurse, revealed that it took the hospital and the HSE until the night before the case was to go into the High Court to apologise to them and agree a settlement.

No one should have to endure that psychological torment. Unfortunately, the failing of a weak hospital system in the HSE caused un-told damage for our family and for all concerned and there is no compensation that can make up for the lost time without our mother around.

St Luke's General Hospital and the HSE apologised for the failings in the treatment and care provided to Mrs McGagh and "the tragic consequences of these failings".

The apology stated: "The hospital regrets the tragic consequences of these failings, and we would like to express an unreserved apology to you and your family for the failings in treatment and care afforded to your mother.

"The hospital regrets the tragic circumstances of these failings and we extend our deepest sympathy to you and your family arising from her subsequent death.”

Kathryn explained that following their mother’s death at Easter, a time she really loved, the family did not want her death to be in vain. “After her death and as the family reflected on what had been allowed to happen to her, we felt that a wife, mother and granny had been wronged and should have made a full recovery.

“Without the staff of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the Beacon Hospital and especially Mr Maher Shahibar (Cardiac Thoracic Surgeon) who gave our Mum first-class care, attention and tried everything possible to save her life for five months and our legal team we would not have gotten the accountability we wanted.

“Mr Shahibar never gave up on Mum until he had tried over and over again to turn the tide for her. The family are truly grateful to him and our legal team Coonan Morgan solicitors, especially Kevin Morgan who guided through all of those awful months and years.”

Kathryn explained that her mother was a, ”very wise woman, had ideas and thoughts that were way before her time. She was a very well educated lady and guided everyone with her knowledge and is missed everyday for the past six years and will never and could never be replaced.

‘Had the mistakes that were made on the evening she fell down the stairs been spotted and the right medical intervention been put in place then she most likely would be still alive today.

“The High Court case was not taken lightly by us. There had to be a plaintiff in order to take the case and as our father Thomas Senior is aged 89, Thomas Junior bravely took on the HSE on behalf of the family.”

Kathryn recounted what happened to her mother following her fall and subsequent care. “Mum was taken by ambulance to St Luke’s General Hospital that night but was discharged home on the same evening.

"The usual X-ray and checks were carried out and she was told she was the luckiest woman alive to have fallen down the stairs and not to have broken a single bone.”

Christina
Christina 'Chrissie' McGagh.

This was the start of a long difficult journey for her family and their much-loved mother.

For the following few weeks, she continued to complain of right-sided chest pain and was brought again for X-ray and was told that she was fine, “however, they did find an old fracture that they thought hadn’t heal well in her right shoulder. We were advised that a full body brace was needed to fix it,” added Kathryn.

Mrs McGagh was taken to another hospital and there a body brace was fitted and told to wear it for four hours per day. “ But she found it unbearable and it had to be removed after only one to two hours most days. She was re-assessed at home by our local GP as she was very unwell.” The family were told that their mother needed to go back to the hospital that day.

Mum had shortness of breath, dry mouth, was not able to have a normal conversation and was very weak. The family were so alarmed by the care she was receiving that they requested to move her themselves to somewhere there was a cardiac thoracic surgeon and a bed for her with her health insurance cover in place.

“It was very frustrating as you put your trust and your mother’s health in the hands of these people and yet no one was helping us, she was being completely ignored as unwell as she was.”

The family managed to get her transferred to the private Beacon Hospital that same day and were told by a surgeon there, who read the X-rays from the night their mother initially fell down the stairs, which showed that Chrissie had suffered multiple fractured ribs.

“We were informed she had been misdiagnosed, that she had developed a collapsed right lung, was septic and in renal failure as a knock on effect, explained Kathryn.

Mrs McGagh remained intubated and in the Intensive Care Unit at the Beacon Hospital until she died five months later.

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