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Diabetic (18) died from hypoglycemia

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Diabetic (18) died from hypoglycemia


Anton McNulty

An 18-year-old Crossmolina woman who was found dead in her home died from diabetes-related hypoglycemia after falling into a coma when her blood-sugar dropped to a ‘severely low’ level.
Laura McDonnell of Killeen, Castlehill, Crossmolina was found dead in her bed at around 3.30pm on March 18. She had gone to bed that morning at 3am, after finishing work in the Dolphin Bar in Crossmolina on St Patrick’s night.
The inquest into her death heard that Ms McDonnell had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes three years previously and had been taking insulin to control her sugar levels.

Extremely rare
Dr Fadel Bennani, consultant pathologist, explained that the postmortem results had shown that her sugar levels were severely low, and that the cause of death was hypoglycemia due to diabetes. He explained that hypoglycemia occurs when not enough food is taken or when insulin is taken at a high level, but that death from the condition is very rare. He explained that he only experienced one previous case of fatality due to hypoglycemia.
The inquest heard that because she had been working hard behind the bar, Ms McDonnell may not have had enough to eat during the day which left her sugar levels low.
Dr Eleanor Fitzgerald, Coroner for north Mayo said that lessons can be learned from the death. While diabetes is common, she said, it is a serious and dangerous illness, and it is important that young sufferers and GP’s monitor their sugar levels closely and frequently.
Ms McDonnell was a student in Sligo IT and had only been diagnosed with diabetes three years previously. She attended the Deel Medical Centre in Crossmolina and Galway and Sligo hospitals to monitor her condition. She took insulin to try and control her sugar levels and there was some evidence that she may have taken her insulin before going to bed.
Dr Cathy McHugh, Consultant Endocrinologist at Sligo General Hospital, explained that she saw Ms McDonnell on February 21 and that her levels at morning time were too high. She increased her night time insulin by two units in a bid to get it down but said this was a small change, and that she had not wanted to change it by too much.
Dr McHugh said this case was very rare and she did not know why she did not wake up. She noted that a glass of orange was found beside her bed and said Ms McDonnell might have been ‘trying to fix it’ [sugar levels].
A lot of unknowns
The inquest heard that Ms McDonnell agreed to give a friend, Gerard Sweeney, a lift home after work and he explained that when she left him home she was in good form.
Her mother Patricia McDonnell, who was not present at the inquest, gave a statement which stated that on March 18 she let her daughter sleep in and at 12 noon went to the Deel Medical Centre to collect her insulin. She came back at 3.30pm and went to her room and saw her still in bed. She stated that she tickled her foot to wake her up but it felt cold and called for help.
Ms McDonnell was pronounced dead at the scene at 4.30pm. Dr Bennani said he could not say what time she died.
Dr Eleanor Fitzgerald said that a death by hypoglycemia was very rarely seen in the coroner’s court as a cause of death. She said that there were a lot of unknowns concerning what Ms McDonnell had eaten or taken before she died, any of which could have contributed to her low sugar levels. She said that because she was treating diabetes with insulin and because the death was not expected, she recorded a verdict of unnatural death.
She also expressed sympathy to Ms McDonnell’s parents and family.