Doctor said my mum 'had a good life' as she lay dying on trolley
Daughter tells of harrowing hospital ordeal as mother’s life hung in balance
The heartbroken daughter of a woman who died after waiting hours on a trolley to be admitted to a hospital ward has said she was horrified when a doctor told her ‘she had a good life’.
Mary Hughes (76) died in Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe, Galway, on January 4 after she was moved from a hospital bed in Roscommon Hospital.
Mrs Hughes, the mother of Sunday World journalist Edel Hughes, died after waiting more than seven hours for a bed before being admitted to a ward.
“While I was with my mother, (a medic) had the audacity to say to me, ‘well she’s had a good life’. I snapped back: ‘She’s had a tough life and now she will have a horrible death’ as at that moment I feared she would die on the trolley,” Edel said.
Her mother was admitted to Roscommon Hospital at the start of December 2022 and was transferred to Portiuncula earlier this month after suffering a seizure.
“She had two major seizures before but thankfully she came out of those. She hadn’t suffered one since June 2021 but something occurred that caused this seizure and she had to be rushed to Portiuncula, even though she was already in Roscommon.”
“She was in a situation where she had to leave a bed and go to a trolley. It was crazy,” Edel explained.
“I was looking around (for her), thinking she might be behind a curtain because sometimes they put vulnerable people behind a curtain to give them a little privacy and space.”
“I didn’t even realise where we were but we were actually in the resuscitation room. It was the only space where they could keep her.
" She was highly distressed at that point. There had been a drop off in her blood pressure, so they were just really just trying to stabilise her,” she continued.
Edel said that her mother was in distress and her breathing was laboured.
“They were just trying to put her somewhere safe, somewhere that it wouldn’t cause distress to her or other patients. But it’s not where she should have been.
“Obviously, when I saw her my fear was that she was going to pass away downstairs on a trolley in the resuscitation room, in horrible circumstances.”
“The nurses and the nurse manager in A&E were great; they were trying to stabilise her and give her some medication for the pain.
" Thankfully, the consultant came on duty and he was fantastic. He said he would continue to give her fluids while also being realistic about her chances and being very honest,” said Edel.
“The nurses were trying really hard to find her a bed upstairs and after a couple of hours they did finally get her one.”
Edel added that “in the worst circumstance” her mam would have died while still on a trolley.
“I was just very scared for her in that moment because I arrived at the time when she was distressed and I was like, ‘oh no she could pass away at any time’.
“For me, the ideal situation would have been for her to get to a comfortable bed and have pain relief.”
The beginning of 2023 has seen hospitals overcrowded as the number of patients on trolleys hit a record high of 931 on January 3.
In a statement to the Sunday World, the HSE said that they could not comment on individual cases.
“The health service continues to experience extreme and unprecedented pressures across our Emergency Departments.”
“The impact of these pressures is being borne by both our patients who need our assistance and our staff who have once again stepped up to meet those challenges and work hard to ensure we are doing the best we can for all our patients.”
“The HSE regrets that patients are experiencing long wait times in our hospitals,” their statement continued.
“We are working as hard as we can to provide services to those patients and to support our staff. We also thank all health service staff, in hospitals and in community services, for their commitment to working through this incredibly difficult time whilst also providing cover for staff who may be on sick leave.”
Edel described her beloved mother as a kind, friendly and gracious lady who made friends wherever she went.
“She loved her family, her local community and was deeply devout in her faith.
“She had no brothers or sisters and both of her parents died while she was in her 20s but she was very close with all her extended family.”
Mary’s funeral took place at The Church of Christ The Good Shepherd, Four Roads, Roscommon last week.
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