World Thrombosis Day with Thrombosis Ireland

Recognised on 13 October, World Thrombosis Day (WTD) focuses attention on the often overlooked and misunderstood condition of thrombosis.

Ann-Marie O’Neill, founder of Thrombosis Ireland, shares a poignant patient story with Hospital Professional News.

Niall Comerford

Niall Comerford
As recounted here by his mother Joan

Niall was born the second of our four children and he was a very healthy happy child teenager and young man. Age 22 he was 6ft 2 was very fit and athletic focused and outgoing. He was very happy with his life and where it was taking him. At Waterford Institute of Technology, he was doing legal studies which he loved. He was a very adventurous young man and just days before his surgery he roped in some of his friends to do a parachute jump for charity… he never got to achieve this.

He had a wide group of friends and liked to socialise and was very popular amongst his peers. His main ambition was to finish his college education in legal studies and pursue a career in law which we have no doubt he would have excelled at. Sadly, all of this was taken away from him by his untimely and preventative death. A death that has left a huge void in our lives and on his wide circle of friends. The traumatic effect of Niall’s death on us his parents and his brothers and sister no words can describe and will continue for many years to come.

In 2010 while Niall was at work, he suffered an accident and came down on his left knee. A colleague brought him to a local hospital where he received medical assistance. He underwent extensive physiotherapy for a number of months. Unable to mobilise his knee fully on extension he was then referred to University Hospital Waterford where an arthroscopy was performed this seemed uneventful and he was referred back for further physiotherapy, he was only mobile with the aid of crutches.

Niall’s parents, Joan and Walter Comerford

Niall eventually made a reasonable recovery but continued to suffer periodically with pain and discomfort this then resulted in him being referred back to the consultant in Waterford where a decision was taken to perform surgery on his knee. On the morning of the surgery I brought Niall into Lourdes Orthopaedic Hospital Kilkenny for what was to be a day case procedure to remove the ossicle tibial.

I made an arrangement with him to collect him when he was discharged. He was brought down to theatre just after 1pm and was back in the ward at 1.45pm at 4.30pm he phoned me to collect him. On discharge he was given the following: a prescription for paracetamol, a cert for college, a discharge sheet, and a tubic bandage to replace the crepe bandage after 72 hours. He was instructed to return back to the hospital or to his GP after 10 days to have the 8 staple stitches removed. After 3 days at home he removed the crepe bandage as was instructed and replaced it with the tubic. Within a short time after putting on this tubic bandage he mentioned he was experiencing a feeling of pins and needles in his calf which he put down to the returning of sensation in his leg.

On the morning of Sunday 30th September, 6 days post-surgery he did comment on a discolouration to his leg. This seemed to fade after I said to him to raise his leg and see if that helped, he also put this down to the aftereffects of the operation which seemed plausible to us also.

Had he been given an aftercare information sheet to reference it may have highlighted any potential problems and made him aware of the possibility of a blood clot. Whereby he would have contacted the hospital where he could have received appropriate treatment.

On Sunday evening he said he felt well enough to return to his accommodation in Waterford and resume his studies the following day. I drove him down and told him I would collect him the following Thursday and said goodbye.

This was the last time I saw him alive.

Monday October 1st was the day that our lives changed forever.

At 11 am I took a phone call from a nurse at Waterford Institute of Technology to say Niall had collapsed and was being brought by ambulance to University Hospital Waterford. Myself and my husband Walter and Niall’s sister Linda immediately drove down to the hospital. I can only leave it to your imagination the horror that unfolded when we were informed of Niall’s death.

At a meeting with Niall’s consultant he explained that Niall developing a DVT was such an extraordinarily rare occurrence in such a fit and healthy young man that the need for the awareness of developing a DVT was not highlighted to him. On 30th November 2012 an inquest was held into his sudden death and the coroner recorded his death as ‘Acute cardiac arrest, pulmonary embolism resulting from a DVT in calf of his left leg following recent history of surgery’.

Neither Niall nor we knew anything of deep vein thrombosis except for hearing of it in terms of long-haul flights. I went on to research deaths occurring from blood clots and was shocked at what I discovered so many people were dying unnecessary and preventable deaths and thrombosis Ireland say that of the 4,000 hospital acquired deaths from VTEs that 1,900 deaths were preventable. This is very alarming and shocking.

We want to share our story with you, the past we cannot change, we have lost our son and wish to God we hadn’t, but you collectively can influence the future. Our message leaving here today is very important consultation information and the creation of awareness are the key factors in the prevention of deep vein thrombosis/pulmonary embolism which is the cause of so many unnecessary deaths.

If Niall did not fit the profile of being a candidate for a blood clot, then it is time that we stop profiling patients and look at every patient as potential candidate for developing a DVT and the death of our son Niall should be the example and reason for doing this. For some he might be just a statistic but to us he was and always will be our son Niall.

For more information on Thrombosis Ireland and their services click here.

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