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Inga marched with thousands of others in Limerick two weeks ago and like so many others has a sad tale to tell of the poor experience patients have to endure in University Hospital Limerick

Kidney patient voices her fears about attending UHL

A HOSPITAL campaigner has stated she doesn’t want to receive any more treatment in University Hospital Limerick (UHL) for her ongoing kidney problems due to previous alleged bad experiences.

Inga Ammonsen, who grew up in Killaloe, requests her consultant to see her in St John’s Hospital because she doesn’t want to go to UHL after her son, Daniel, who was a qualified chef, died there on February 21, 2021.

The 58-year old mother-of-two is still waiting for an inquest because he died suddenly. Living on her own in Limerick City, her left kidney is barely functioning due to disease.

About four years ago, she attended a public meeting organised by the Mid-West Hospital Campaign in the Mechanics Institute in Hartstone Street, Limerick, and has actively campaigned with the group since then.

She was one of the 100 people who participated in a vigil outside UHL on New Year’s Eve and also attended the recent hospital demonstration in Limerick City.

She urged people to support the Mid-West Hospital Campaign by attending public meetings and protest marches.

Calling for action to tackle chronic overcrowding in UHL, she believes some of the €5 billion government surplus should be used to dramatically improve regional health services.

Born in England, she moved to Ireland at the age of six and grew up in Killaloe attending the Girls National School and the old St Anne’s Community College in Convent Hill.

After secondary school, she went to England for a few years where she met Daniel’s father and then moved back to live in her mother’s house in Killaloe for two years before moving to Limerick City where she now resides.

On May 21, Inga was in extreme pain so she called an ambulance at 7.30am. It took three calls and three hours before an ambulance arrived to her house in Limerick City. She was told that the two ambulances that were on call had to do call-outs that were deemed more important.

She spent three days on a trolley in UHL and was even placed on a trolley in a corridor after her procedure on the Monday morning.

She was told by staff they couldn’t tell her how long she would be on a trolley because there was only one operating theatre open on the Sunday.

“I have never been in a proper ward for kidney patients. I have been thrown all over the place even though I have kidney disease. When I asked nurses what as the story with beds, I was told
‘Inga, that is just the way it is’. The nurses are so disillusioned with what is happening.

“If I get a pain during the weekend, I am terrified I will end up in UHL because there is no guarantee where my consultant will be working as he works in different hospitals in the region.

“If I get a pain in the wrong place, I am afraid I will have to go out to UHL. I don’t want to go to UHL unless I really have to. Old people don’t want to go to UHL. I feel sorry for anyone who has to spend days or weeks there.

“If you need a kidney stint because you can’t go to the toilet, they do it in UHL but six weeks later you have to go to Nenagh to have it taken out even if you live in Limerick.

“If you have a kidney stone that needs to be lasered, you have to go to Nenagh because the machine is there.

“There is no one locally doing this procedure, two doctors come from England to perform it before going back on a place that evening.

“I don’t drive so I have to get a bus to Nenagh. I have never been put into a ward for kidney urology,” she said.

She described the death of Shannon teenager, Aoife Johnston (16) as “horrific and disgusting”.

In December 2020, Inga got a kidney bag and has a few stent procedures to get rid of kidney stones that didn’t pass naturally.

About six years, she discovered she had benign tumours on her thyroid that required surgery, which didn’t prove successful, leaving her feeling sick for about 18 months afterwards.

This coincided with the start of her serious kidney problems when she experienced severe pain one night and a paramedic told her she may have burst her appendix.

This resulted in being placed on a trolley in UHL where she described conditions as “horrendous and disgusting”.

Medical examination found a kidney stone in November. Two months later, she received a letter from an endocrinologist who confirmed during a consultation she had tumours in her neck.

Having seen Dr Eoin Noctor, a consultant endocrinologist, he recommended more surgery.

Two and a half years after travelling up and down for tests in Galway, she had a second bout of surgery on her thyroid in October 2021.

While some people can afford to pay for private health care, Inga said this isn’t an option for her after she was made redundant five years ago.

“I can remember being on a trolley in UHL when I was just 22 before a gall bladder operation.

In addition to her kidney problems, she also has osteoporosis and problems with her back. Last November, she had a back x-ray was referred for an MRI but was told by medical staff they couldn’t give her a time frame and learned she could have to wait up to two years as a public patient.

“Unless you have money, you are treated like you don’t matter. I could be walking around with a fractured back. An x-ray will only provide basic information. I need an MRI for a more detailed scan. If this was a book, someone would say this is fiction.”

As part of the HSE’s Waiting List Validation process, she got a letter on January 20 asking her to reply to validate her place on the urology waiting list.

She is due to see her doctor next March and got a letter asking her does she still want the appointment.

It states, “We are sorry that you are still waiting. We want to provide valuable services to our patients as soon as we can. That is why we are checking our waiting list. If you do not respond, you may be removed from our waiting list and your family doctor would be informed.”

She was surprised to get this letter because her kidneys are not getting better.

“My left kidney is nearly gone. If it gets much worse, I have been told I may need a dialysis or a kidney transplant. I don’t eat salt any more. I am trying to do everything I can to improve my health.”

Even though UHL is a teaching hospital, she believes one of the issues is a lack of continuity of staff as every time she has an anaesthetic, she sees a different anaesthetist.

In December 2020, when she went to UHL to have her kidney bag taken out there was no bed available in the eye ward so she was placed in a high dependency unit where she was linked to a machine and had to be strapped down in bed for the night.

“Even though I was going in to get my kidneys zapped and the bag taken off, this was the only bed available. I will never forget it, it was like being in jail. I had to go to the toilet before I was strapped to the bed because I couldn’t get up during the night.

“They were able to monitor me on a camera even though I didn’t need to be monitored. You never know where you will end up when you go to UHL. The eye ward regularly has patients who shouldn’t be there like me with my kidneys.

“I can’t blame nurses if they decide to retire or leave because they are not being treated properly,” she claimed.

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