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June 8, 2011

Irish medics tell parents to give soda to fatally ill kid

By Georgina O'Halloran
The Irish Times

DUBLIN — A mother who called an ambulance on two occasions to bring her 11-year-old son to hospital broke down at an inquest yesterday as she recalled that personnel on the first ambulance advised her to give him water and 7UP.

Leonardo Sala of Mount Andrew Court, Lucan, Co Dublin, died of acute inflammation of the colon, secondary to chronic constipation, on July 21st, 2010.

Maria Sala called an ambulance just before 5pm on the day before her son s death. Leonardo, known as Leo, had diarrhoea and vomiting. A Dublin Fire Brigade ambulance attended at the family home at 5.14pm, but did not take the boy, who had an underlying condition called mitochondrial disease, to hospital.

Garda Sgt Mark Campbell told the Dublin City Coroner s Court there was a language and communication issue.

A second ambulance went to the Sala home at 10.27pm, after another call was made to the emergency services, and the boy was taken to Tallaght hospital, accompanied by his father, Antonio Sala.

When the boy, who had a history of constipation, arrived at the hospital, he was in a semi-conscious state and had a distended abdomen. He was diagnosed with inflammation of the colon secondary to chronic constipation, which may have been associated with his underlying metabolic disease.

He was transferred to Temple Street hospital, where he died the following day.

A tearful Ms Sala told the inquest she asked the first crew to take her son to hospital and was expecting the ambulance would take him straight away. She said an ambulance paramedic said there was not a problem and advised her to give him water and boil 7UP for him. Ms Sala, a native Portuguese speaker, told the coroner that she felt guilty.

"The way the young man explained the situation, he was so confident . . . so sure there was no problem . . . they [the parents] did not ask him to take the child [to hospital]. The way he said it, they thought there was no problem," said interpreter George Mopinga.

Asked by coroner Dr Brian Farrell if she had explained her son's medical history, Ms Sala said she indicated her son could not talk and she showed them a laxative medication he was being given. She said she was advised to stop the medication.

Paramedic Gary Mason, who was with the first ambulance, told the coroner he had no recollection of the incident. He said an ambulance crew could never refuse to take a patient to hospital and that he could not have left the house if Ms Sala was asking him to take Leo to hospital.

Dr Farrell recorded a narrative verdict, a summary of the facts of the case. He said he would write to all paediatric metabolic units asking them to consider giving a care card to patients that could be presented to emergency services and at A&E departments.

Copyright 2011 The Irish Times

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