Aisling was one of our best friends since meeting in 5th year at Scoil Muire. She was the Mammy of the group, organized and hardworking. She adored her job as a secondary school teacher and was passionate about her work. She loved traveling and nights out and was always up for an adventure.
Moving to Dubai was to be her biggest adventure yet, and she quickly built a life there, joining a tag rugby team and making new friends from all over the world. She was living the dream, excelling in her job, in love with her soul mate, and traveling the world. She planned to move home and start a family eventually. She was taking precautions by taking the combined oral contraceptive pill.
While Aisling was living in Dubai, she was frequently on long-haul flights on her many adventures worldwide. She even flew home to Ireland in April 2017 on a short weekend visit as her grandmother was unwell.
Aisling texted us in October 2016 asking an ‘asthma question’. She had not been able to take a deep breath in ages, and her chest was tight. She was short of breath with chest pains when training. She said she felt like she had suddenly become extremely unfit and was finding it hard to walk upstairs. We advised her to go to her Doctor and get checked out. She said she needed to go because her ankle and calf were swollen. When Aisling went to the Doctor, she was told she had a Vitamin D deficiency and needed to drink more water. She also had an X-ray, and the orthopedic doctor gave it a rub, undermined her concerns, and sent her home. Life went on, and Aisling continued to complain of her symptoms. She started googling and even called her Mam, saying she thought she may have a blood clot, but her doctor kept dismissing her.
Everything changed on 27th November 2017. Aisling went to school after working extremely hard to prepare her year twelve and year thirteen reports. This is where she fainted for the first time, causing her to hit her head hard on the floor. After three minutes knocked out, she came to and sat in a wheelchair, disoriented but totally aware, as she was giving orders (typical Aisling) to the teachers, who would be picking up her work for the day. She was frustrated at the fuss being made over what seemed to be a simple faint caused by stress. Luckily, Aisling was put in an ambulance and quickly transported to the hospital.
Once in the ambulance, things started to take a serious turn. Aisling suffered three seizures on the journey, and luckily within 3-4 minutes of resuscitation, she was brought back, then suffered a second and third cardiac arrest. Each resulted in 3-4 minutes of resuscitation. This was further complicated by stroke, caused by a shower of smaller blood clots to the brain.
Aisling suffered serious damage to her brain and, combined with a total of twelve minutes of hypoxia, really left her cardiovascular system and brain very weak.
The cause of all of this was a Pulmonary Embolism (blood clots in her lung) which had started in her leg over a long period of time. A piece of the clot broke off and traveled through her heart and into her lungs.
Aisling was eventually flown home by air ambulance and spent some time in the hospital before returning to her family home and eventually a nursing home. She left us in March 2020 after a brave battle to recover.
If Aisling’s doctors had risk assessed her for blood clots, they would have seen that she had a number of risk factors like the combined oral contraceptive pill and many long-haul travel journeys. If they had listened to her concerns about having a blood clot and treated her with anticoagulation medication, she could still be with us today.
We are telling Aisling’s story today because her friends and family, who loved and miss her so much, do not want this to happen to anyone else. Aisling’s death was preventable.
Girls, are you taking an estrogen-containing contraceptive or oral estrogen-containing HRT? Please familiarise yourself with the signs and symptoms of a blood clot. Make sure that you know all the risk factors for blood clots because there are many and blood clots usually happen when you have two or more of these risk factors. Be vigilant for the signs and always get medical advice if you suspect you may have symptoms.
If you want more information, please contact Thrombosis Ireland to receive your Blood Clot Alert card or download it from their website, www.thrombosis.ie. It could save your life.
On the 19th of July 2019 Eve’s dad, Barry and I had arranged to meet Eve by the courthouse in limerick city as Eve crossed Matthew bridge approaching our car she fell her full weight landed on her right foot. We got out of the car and Eve was crying she couldn’t get up Barry carried Eve to the car it was raining heavily so we brought her home to change her clothes she was soaked and I’d say this took about half an hour then we left for university Hospital limerick. We arrived at UHL at 9.50 pm. Eve’s fiancé was with her so she told me to go home she was fine with him. Eve had been texting between her dad and I for most of the night she was triaged at 10 pm and didn’t see a doctor until around 5 am even though she was marked as urgent. One of her texts to me stated she had an X-ray but they were now concerned about her calf and she would need a ct scan. I left home after 8 am on the morning of the 20th to see Eve, Eve was in a corridor off the A&E with other patients end to end and the smell of urine was foul Eve had told us she was moved there during the night and another patient had urinated in the sink. I stayed with Eve for a while but it was my youngest daughter’s birthday that day she was 12 and I felt so torn. I took Emma to town to get her presents while I was in town Eve rang me really upset saying no one was coming to her and she wanted to go home I told Eve to stay put and I was on my way. I got to out to Eve and told her fiancé to go home and eat something I would stay with her. Eve was really distressed crying a lot and I thought it was because she was cold and tired. She only had her hoodie across her no blankets or pillows I put my cardigan behind her head and asked again for a blanket. Eve asked me to lie down with her and she fell asleep lying into me I rubbed her soft blonde hair and she was sucking her thumb she kept jerking her right leg in her sleep. I moved to look for a doctor and couldn’t find anyone, I waited a few minutes and went to look again no one was telling Eve or us what was wrong with her. I found a nurse and she told me the doctor wasn’t around at the moment and she would find someone to speak to me. I went back to Eve and she asked me not to leave her on her own I went to get a coffee and brought Eve with me on the way out I noticed a female doctor looking at a ct. I remember Eve reaching her hand back for me as I pushed her in the wheelchair and rubbing her head and a lady passing and saying to me they’re always mammy’s baby. When we were outside sharing a sandwich Eve’s name was called a doctor said Eve, we are admitting you but she would not tell us why or what was wrong she just said the other doctor would come to see her in the ward. I took Eve to the toilet again she couldn’t bear any weight at all on the leg she couldn’t even stand by herself. Her leg at this stage looked bigger and angrier than it was earlier going from her calf down a colour I’ve never seen before I’ve described it as a Christmas ham. Her belongings were packed for her and she was rushed up. When we got to the ward no one knew why Eve was there, there was nothing written in her file. At around 5.15 pm another doctor was called to see Eve because Eve’s pain was 9/10 they had pillows under her leg trying to make the swelling go down Eve was given an anti-inflammatory and told her circulation was fine. At around 8.30 pm the orthopedic surgeon came to see Eve told her the CT was clear and Eve said are you sure because my leg is numb and doesn’t feel right Eve had also complained of pins and needles earlier. He said yes Eve just rest it at home. He put a tubi-grip on Eve’s leg with the help of another doctor because it didn’t fit and the swelling was just spilling over it. Eve cried as they did this. We took Eve home all Eve was worried about was missing her sister’s birthday and all Emma was worried about was that Eve was ok. She played the Xbox with her siblings I could hear them laughing and talking my 40th Birthday was ten days later and Eve had bought me a pandora ring and she decided to give it to me that night I remember she said to me I love you, mam, you’re always there for me. At 11.15 pm Eve said she was tired and she was going to bed Barry told her he would help her upstairs but she shuffled up on her bum using her left leg to pull herself up. I could hear her upstairs and Kate her sister asking if she was ok then mark her fiancé screamed my name. When I got upstairs Eve was a color I’ve never seen her lips were going blue Barry rang an ambulance I kept telling Eve it’s ok love I’m here she went into cardiac arrest Barry gave me the phone and started chest compressions Eve came round and called for her little sister she said Emma my chest hurts so much and Emma said Eve it’s ok the ambulance is coming I love you Eve I sent Emma back to her room the ambulance arrived and at the time Eve was trying to talk as best she could. Eve had an oxygen mask on her face and I remember her taking it down she called mam I was leaning down over her and she said I’m so sorry mam her beautiful blue eyes were going black and she smiled and said it again I said Eve get up I’ll switch places with you don’t leave me Eve and she went into cardiac arrest again that was the last time I spoke to Eve. Eve was pronounced dead at 1.50 am on the 21st of July 2019. My beautiful precious girl died of DVT and PE and cardiac arrest even as she lay dying Eve knew what her death would do to us. I had Eve when I was 18 years old she was such a beautiful child always and she grew into my best friend. She was full of love and hope funny kind and very witty she had a heart of gold loved her dogs. She was an amazing sister the go-to girl Eves siblings Kate, Beth, Sean, Sarah, and Emma will always miss her never a day passes that they don’t speak of her. Barry and I had a song for Eve since she was small by the Real Thing, you to me are everything, Eve’s coffin was carried in to this song it describes how we love her. Eve’s death was preventable and the Nice guidelines 2018 are not being followed in many hospitals. Eve had many risk factors she was on the pill, she smoked, her BMI, and her family history. We miss her terribly.
Zenda Franklin tells of her heartbreak of losing her Mam.
It’s been the most horrific few months of my life. We all thought we were doing so well staying safe and then my Mam left us. My Mam was the strongest person I have known and it had been a very difficult year for her. She was fighting to save her sight in her right eye as her left had been taken in a horrific car accident even before I was born. Last year her eyesight diminished in Feb and went from blurry to black very quickly. She had cornea failure. The only way to save her vision was to have a cornea transplant however the road to this surgery was long and she sometimes was required to have emergency surgery to seal a leak of eye pressure. Never in the entire journey did she lose faith that she would see again and we kept her going too. In early Oct she had another eye surgery which was the last one needed before the major one but everything went wrong. After this, she was very ill and got sick so much that her appetite was gone so she lost weight. She was put on medication to keep her pressure up however it made her physically ill with vertigo and weakness. Speaking with my Mam at this time she was really scared and on the 9th Oct. I spoke to my Mam and she had been taken off the medication. She also told me how much she loved me which was not out of the ordinary but the tone in her voice made it different. That was the last time I spoke to my Mother. In the late hours of Saturday 10th October, I got the call to get to Wexford. I raced and cried but my Mam passed as I was halfway home. The following Thursday we received the post-mortem. She had two thromboemboli in her varicose veins and which traveled to her lung and she suffered a pulmonary embolism and heart failure. It was quick and thinking of my amazing mother now she would not be the same today if she was here and it would be cruel. It still does not stop me from wanting just 5 more minutes to tell her how much I adore her and miss her. She was the light and heart of our entire family and we are forever lost now but trying to make her proud of us. I wanted to fundraise and make her proud of me and I will also fundraise to raise money for the eye clinic that treated her as they require equipment. I will do whatever it takes as my Mam always did everything for me.
Zenda held a Birthday Fundraiser on Facebook in the hope that the Money would help someone else Keep their Mammy.
On the 28th October 2012, Michael John McCreanor Junior (Beechy), a health 32 year old man, my Son, sustained a routine fracture from a rugby match playing for Boyne RFC. Having attended A&E on the 31st October 2012 with leg swelling too much for a full cast, a half cast was placed on his simple lower leg fracture. However, while under hospital care over a twenty two day period, he attended the hospital with clear medical indicators such as breathlessness, pain in his shoulders etc. Despite John displaying and reporting these symptoms to medical staff, he succumbed to his injury and died from a clot that formed from the fracture and resulted in a large saddle pulmonary embolus and CPR having been administered. John was a family man, a good father/provider, an accomplished sportsman/musician and an all-round character. Unfortunately, clots do not discriminate and this could happen to anybody at any age at any time. This issue could affect your family, friends, colleagues and wider community. Learn about your risks. Know the signs to watch for and get medical attention fast. Protect each other from this heartbreak.
Michael (John’s Dad)
I was asked to speak to you today following the circumstances and ultimately the death of our son Niall Comerford from a pulmonary embolism… and here is his story.
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) and did extremely well in his first year exams he was looking forward to his second year which he had just commenced. Niall had lofty ambitions and was considering applying for a J1 visa to work in the U.S. He was also a very adventurous young man and just days before his surgery he had roped in some of his friends to do a parachute jump for charity which he also never got to achieve.
He was a great help to us at home and loved to help out where he could including me having problems with my laptop he would always have the solution. 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 and this has left a huge void in our lives and also 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 working at a part-time job he suffered an accident and came down on his left knee. A member of management brought him to a local hospital where he received medical assistance. He then 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 and was only mobile with the use of crutches.
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. This surgery was scheduled to be performed on Monday 24th September 2012 On the morning of the surgery I brought Niall in to Lourdes orthopaedic Hospital Kilcreene Kilkenny at 7am 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 four a prescription for paracetamol a cert for college a discharge sheet and a tubic bandage this was 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 bandage he was given. Within a short time after putting on this tubic bandage he did mention that he was experiencing a feeling of pins and needles in the calf of his leg and he put this down to the returning of sensation in his leg. On the morning of the 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 after effects of the operation which seemed plausible to us also. HAD he been given an aftercare /information sheet to reference it could have highlighted any potential problems and made him aware of the possibility of a blood clot and he would have contacted the hospital where he could have received appropriate treatment.
On Sunday evening 30th September 2012 day 6 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. On Monday 1st October the following day (7 days post-surgery) 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 yourselves to imagine the horror that unfolded when we were informed of his death) At a meeting with Niall’s consultant he explained to us that Niall developing a dvt was such an extraordinary 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 vte’s that 1,900 deaths were preventable. This is very alarming and shocking.
The UK haematologist professor Beverley Hunt warns that thrombosis can affect both young and old and she further states that much more needs to be done to make sure that front-line medics properly recognise symptoms of deep vein thrombosis which, if not treated early is an indiscriminate and devastating killer.
We have been asked here today 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. And just one more thing.
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 a 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.
Niall’s Mam Joan Comerford
In early 2009 my mum Susan, developed a lump on the side of her neck. She went to her GP who didn’t think it was anything to worry about. But the lump grew and so she was referred to hospital for investigations and a biopsy. We were worried of course but massively reassured when she was diagnosed with a branchial cyst, it wasn’t serious but would need to be removed surgically. Surgery was serious but it was okay, no one had said the C word.
Mum rang me from the hospital to say that cancerous cells had shown up and that they needed to find out where they had come from. And so it began… Mum had always kept diaries over the years, usually filled with the comical minutiae of daily life. I have subsequently found her diary entry from that day in the hospital. She had written – “the day the world changed.”
And the world had changed forever. I will preface the next part by saying that mum and I were more than mother and child. We were best friends, bickering partners, protectors, advocates and companions together. I was an only child, mum was married at 17 and separated at 20. In my mind it was my job to mind her, because she was trusting and kind and I was more of a survivor, more of a cynic. I lived in fear of the room door opening, that a doctor would come in and say something.
Eleven days later a doctor did come in and say something. And it was horrible and it was frightening. Mum was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma that had originated in her tonsil and was going to required further surgery, radiation treatment and chemotherapy. Mum was very brave. Very scared but very brave. And so we went into battle mode, we asked questions, we read all the booklets, we met the specialists and the focus became getting better. We latched onto every little scrap of positive information we could. When we left the hospital the doctor had filled in a long pink form, at the bottom of the form were written the words “highly treatable.” I read that part of the form every day, many times a day.
She had a second surgery in August and she was allowed to go on a short family holiday to Dungarvan. Next came all the arrangements for radiotherapy, which was like science fiction. Incredibly precise, tiny measurements were taken and a mask was made. She began radiotherapy and it soon became part of her routine. We were able to cross off the sessions, 35 due in all, and to see a light at the end of the tunnel. She tolerated chemotherapy less well and it was decided that it should be curtailed after three sessions, that in the doctor’s words, she’d “had enough.”
By early November the radiotherapy was taking a toll, she was tired and feeling down. On Friday 6th November she went Christmas shopping. She came home and complained of a pain in her lower leg. We put it down to a pulled muscle and thought no more about it. By Sunday evening she was having difficulty swallowing from the localised pain of the radiation treatment. She knew it was important to keep her strength up for the final few weeks of treatment so asked me to phone the hospital on Monday morning with the intention of being admitted.
We went in on Monday 9th November and they agreed to keep her in for the remainder of her treatment. That way they could finish out the radiotherapy while making sure she was eating and drinking enough. Again I haunted the hospital with my endless visits, keen to be there for any doctor’s rounds and eager to distract her with talk of the kids and Christmas, which was only around the corner.
On Wednesday 11th November mum’s leg was still in pain but now also looked swollen. She mentioned it to the nurse and a venogram was ordered. That afternoon mum was diagnosed with a DVT. And that was the day the world really changed, though we didn’t know it at the time. The diagnosis came as a complete surprise, this was something people were diagnosed with after long haul flights. How did this happen? It was only then that we became aware of the connection between cancer and DVT. I was horrified, why were we only hearing about this risk now?
She was started on daily treatment and the threat was played down, no one seemed concerned at all. The message from the professionals, the doctors, was that now they were aware of the DVT it was in hand, under control. We were reassured, to an unrealistic level. I was advised not to kiss or hug her in case I passed on anything.
I sat in a chair by the bed and we watched more TV and chatted. She was weak, had lost weight but was able to speak without discomfort at this point. During this time we were both extremely worried and scared but trying valiantly to hide it from each other. I have subsequently read her hospital files from then in which the nurse’s often mention the patient crying, stating that she is frightened, the patient appears anxious++.
On Monday 30th November I made my usual visit, the nurses were used to me and my questions. She had a Russian phlebotomist with whom she had been discussing Anna Karenina while he took samples. By about 5pm I was due to collect my kids from my in laws and so decided to leave. Mum was due to have her final dose of radiotherapy that Wednesday and then plans were to be made for her to come home. We joked that she could eat everything around her over Christmas as she was advised to put weight on.
I stood at the door of the room and asked could I hug her, she said best not to as the nurses said no. We had to be careful of infection. I closed the door and stood there, unable to leave. I opened the door again and looked at her, my wonderful, kind, funny, vulnerable mum. I didn’t want to go. But I left as I had every other day and told myself that I was being silly and that everything would be fine. The treatment was nearly over, she would be home, we would enjoy Christmas, she would be safe.
Just before 10pm that night we had our usual goodnight chat, we were both watching I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, she asked me to bring her in some shampoo the next day. We said goodnight and I told her I loved her best in the world, and she said the same. At about half ten the phone rang. It was one of the nurses at the hospital. She told me that my mother was extremely anxious and couldn’t breathe properly. She asked me what I thought was wrong. I suggested a panic attack. She told me that an ambulance had been called to transfer mum to a hospital with an emergency room.
When I arrived at the A&E department of the other hospital I was told that mum had arrested and that her pulse was absent in the ambulance. CPR was carried out for 40 minutes during which time they insisted that I go in and look to see that they were trying to save her. A machine that looked like a jackhammer was pummelling down on my mother, who had been cut out of her pyjamas and was wearing a hospital gown. They told me that there was no point in carrying on, that I had to identify her body and that they weren’t sure whether I’d be entitled to apply for a funeral grant. My mother, Susan Jones, was declared dead at 12.20 am on the 1st December 2009. It was surreal, I went outside and vomited.
Two doctors came to see me in a side room. I was in deep shock. I asked what could have happened. They told me that it was highly likely to be related to the DVT. They had her file from the other hospital. No of course it couldn’t be, I thought, they knew about that, they were treating that. I signed the forms for an autopsy, desperate to know what had happened. When the results were sent to me it was confirmed: her cause of death was a bilateral pulmonary embolism caused by DVT.
I have been desperate for answers to the question, how did this happen? Was this preventable? Were we adequately informed of the risks? It quite possibly was preventable and we were not made aware of the seriousness of DVT and its potential to prove fatal. I am so sad and so angry, and the passing of time in no way lessens that. My mother may have died anyway but we weren’t given the facts or armed with the information to possibly change the horrible course that this DVT took. When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer that becomes your focus, that becomes the fight. Every family in the world knows that. But the elephant in the room, the DVT, was the real threat. My mum endured so much to beat this, all the components of getting well, all the treatment, all the technology, all the precision. It was all for nothing.
Since mum died I feel like the shine has gone off the world. The loss is huge for me and for my children but the greatest loss is hers. She was a wonder, kind, witty, smart and the best person I ever knew. She had a lot of life to live and the world is a duller place without her. Everyone says their mum is great, but my mum was really, really great.
I feel that I wasn’t given the opportunity to look out for her best interests because the diagnosis of the DVT was downplayed so much. I completely took my eye off the ball because I didn’t know that this could, and would, go on to kill her. If you take one thing from listening to me today, and I want to thank you for taking the time to read this.
When someone is diagnosed with cancer they and their families are already scared, if informing them about the risks and complications of Blood Clots scares them more then scare them some more. It can literally make the difference between life and death.