AN Ennis family has called for an independent inquiry to address “unanswered questions” surrounding the death of a popular well known former Shannon Airport Chief Inspector and merchant navy man.
Wilma O’Halloran has requested UL Hospitals Group group to conduct an independent inquiry into the circumstances that led to death of her father, John O’Halloran, Upper Cahercalla Road, Ennis before his life support machine in University Hospital Limerick (UHL) had to be turned off on February 22, 2022.
In an interview with the Clare Champion, she said there are several “unanswered questions” how a very mobile, fit 83 year-old man who was taken via ambulance with a non-life threatening broken neck ended up dying in UHL.
“John walked every day. He was very sociable and made a lot of friends in Éire Óg and from his walks. He would drop and collect his own grandchildren from school. He was very healthy.
“I am looking for answers. I would not like to see this happening to another patient,” she said.
The Limerick Coroner’s Office has confirmed an inquest will be held into Mr O’Halloran at a date that has yet to be decided. A coroner’s interim certificate stated the cause of his death has yet to be established and a final death certificate will be issued in due course.
Wilma recalled that in the lead-up to his fall, John was in good health and enjoyed digging in the garden and doing physical work around the house.
On Monday, February 7, 2022, Wilma recalled she got a phone call before 8pm to inform her John had fallen on the steps outside his home. A passer-by saw him lying on the steps and called an ambulance. It appears that he fell backwards and hit his head, which resulted in him experiencing severe pain.
Following the fitting of a neck brace, Wilma believes John was able to climb a few steps to go on a trolley into the ambulance and recalled he was able to sit upright in this vehicle.
The following day Wilma drove into to UHL with a bag of his personal items, but wasn’t allowed to see her father because he was on a trolley. John was content enough when Wilma spoke to him that day.
On Wednesday, February 9, Wilma said John, who was in the trauma unit, rang her at 1.10pm in a distressed state, asking her to get him “out of here” as “I can’t even get a drink of water”.
John was in a six-bedded male trauma unit and another patient told Wilma her father had a very interesting life.
“He was lying down immobilised. It took me ages to get a nurse to find out could I give him a drink. The bell wasn’t within his reach. A staff person came and said
we are reducing his liquids by mouth.
“I asked for moist sticks. She came back about 15 minutes later and left them on his table.
“I had to get tissues near the hand dispenser near the sink to stack them on his chest so he could try and wipe the phelgm from his mouth. I brought this to the attention of the nurses’ station and they didn’t seem to be too concerned about it.
“I don’t believe he was on a drip,” she said.
On Thursday, February 10, John had an MRI scan for non-critical patients and was told by a surgeon he has sustained a broken neck and would be going to the Mater Hospital for surgery once a bed became available.
Wilma packed her father’s bag and got his belongings ready for a planned trip to Dublin the following day.
Before she left, she claimed that she again went to the nurses’ station to inform staff about her concern about his father’s phlegm.
Wilma said a doctor told her father was a very fit man and didn’t foresee any major issues, albeit his recovery could be slow because of breaking his neck.
On Friday morning, February 11, Wilma recalled getting a phone call at 7.45am to inform her John had an episode that brought on a heart attack and whoever was with him noticed his colour had changed and he “wasn’t breathing, had choked and aspirated on the contents of his lungs”.
Wilma claimed this episode resulted in John being “deprived of oxygen for up to 26 minutes” before resuscitation.
By the time family members had reached UHL, John had been placed on life support in intensive care.
“From the minute the phelgm was noticed it should have been suctioned out or else John should have been placed in a high dependency unit.
“He should have been attached to a monitor. He couldn’t even reach a bell. It is dreadful to think of him lying there choking not able to call somebody.
“If you are choking and there is someone beside you watching you, they are going to notice this. I don’t believe there was any one with him at the time,” she claimed.
The second MRI machine for patients in intensive care was broken at the time. Once John was placed in intensive care he received extensive treatment including dialysis.
Wilma insisted that an intensive MRI brain scan should be completed, which took place on Tuesday, February 22 following repairs to see if any other treatment was possible.
This illustrated extensive brain damage that led to the final heart wrenching decision to turn off the life support machine as medics confirmed he would never make a recovery.
Wilma recalled a nurse took her by the hand and stated her father should haven’t ended up in intensive care.
The group expressed their sympathies with Mr O’Halloran’s family on their loss.
“It is not appropriate to discuss the care of individuals with third parties. This is due to our legal and ethical obligations to protect the confidentiality of patients and staff.
“The group are in direct contact with Mr O’Halloran’s family on this matter through the Patient Advocacy and Liaison Service,” said a group spokesman.
The father-of two was president of Éire Óg GAA club, instigated the development of Tom’s Garden near the Éire Óg clubhouse and played golf all his life.
Born in Carrowmore North, Doonbeg, on May 1, 1938, he worked in O’Doherty Timber Merchants in Kilrush before going to sea as a merchant navy man for ten years.
From 1954 to 1964, he worked for Limerick Shipping, Irish Shipping, and Blue Star Lines, before returning to Clare at the age of 26 to take up a post with the Shannon Airport Police and Shannon Sea Rescue Service.
After retiring at the age of 58 in March 1998 from the airport police, he loved travelling on the rivers, lakes and canals of Ireland.