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Hospital absolved in heart-attack inquest

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Pic: Ciara Moynihan

Widow ‘let down’ by hospital’s failure to detect blocked artery


Anton McNulty

THE wife of a man who died after suffering a massive heart attack believes he was let down by the health system after doctors failed to detect a blocked artery while he was in hospital shortly before his death.
Michael Regan (66) of Fahy, Kilcon, Ballina, suffered a massive heart attack on October 28, 2018, while having a cup of tea at a friend’s house. He died within half an hour of falling ill.
The inquest into his death heard that Mr Regan had been admitted to Mayo University Hospital on October 18 complaining of abdominal pain. He was managed with antibiotics and fluid. He also had an ECG on his heart, along with a CAT scan and blood tests. He was kept in overnight before he was discharged the following day on dietary advice of a high-fibre diet.
Ann Regan, Mr Regan’s widow, told the inquest that her husband had continued to feel unwell during the week after his discharge with shortness of breath, and that he had gone to see his GP.
She said it was clear that he was unwell, as he was never one to complain. She believes that because all the focus was on his abdomen, he would have been better off if he had not gone in to hospital in the first place.
“I feel the family have been let down; there is no point saying anything different. It was missed, and he is now dead,” she said. “We want answers. Why it was not picked up when he was in hospital?”
Sudden onset
Ann Regan said that on the morning of her husband’s death, they had gone to Westport to collect a pony that he bought. On the way home, they called into the home of Frank and Helen McDonnell in Castlehill, Ballina.
As Mr Regan was drinking a cup of tea, he suddenly dropped the cup and fell back on his chair. The time was around 1.20pm. Ann Regan and Helen O’Donnell performed CPR on him, but he was unresponsive. He was pronounced dead at 2.06pm.
Frank McDonnell said Mr Regan had been in good form before he fell ill. He added that he ‘completely unresponsive’ once he collapsed and was ‘out like a light’.
Dr Fadel Bennani, Consultant Pathologist in Mayo University Hospital explained that the postmortem showed that Mr Regan’s right coronary artery was 90 percent blocked. He said the cause of death was due to myocardial infarction – a heart attack – due to atheroma.

Silent killer
Dr Bennani explained that usually when somebody is suffering a heart attack they get a warning with chest pains and go to the hospital. He said that other times it happens fast and quietly, without any pain and that this is what happened to Mr Regan.
He explained that signs of a heart attack may not occur until one or two days before death, and he added that main symptoms, chest pains, were not obvious while Mr Regan had been in hospital. He said the only way of seeing whether his arteries were blocked was to conduct an angiogram; an ECG would not have pick it up.
The coroner for North Mayo, Dr Eleanor Fitzgerald, recorded a verdict of natural death, saying that heart disease is a silent killer. She also said that in the medical world decisions can only be made on what is presented to doctors.
She sympathised with the family of Mr Regan on their loss.