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Mum's agony after critically-ill son waited five hours on op and passed away just days later

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 11/11/2015

Terence Fitzsimons suffered multiple organ failure after developing peritonitis following surgery
Terence Fitzsimons suffered multiple organ failure after developing peritonitis following surgery

A mother has severely criticised the health service for failing her 32-year-old son after he died in agonising pain in hospital.

Terence Patrick Fitzsimons died three days after he was rushed to the Ulster Hospital with severe abdominal pain, an inquest has heard. His mother told coroner Suzanne Anderson that the day her youngest son died "changed my life for ever".

"My son was left to die an agonising death and was left in the hands of junior doctors," she told the coroner's court in Belfast.

Despite being listed to be seen urgently by a senior clinician after admission to the emergency department, Mr Fitzsimons was only operated on five hours later by a consultant who described him to his family as "the sickest patient I have ever seen".

After surgery to save his life, the agricultural contractor from Downpatrick, Co Down, suffered multiple organ failure after developing peritonitis from a rupture in his intestine.

The single man died on March 1, 2013, surrounded by his family after his life-support machine was switched off.

Madeleine Fitzsimons told the inquest that as a mother she instinctively knew for months that her youngest son was gravely ill because Terence's brother had already experienced a similar serious health issue and she recognised the symptoms.

Her oldest son was lucky not to have died when he had to have an emergency operation on his bowel a few years earlier.

She said she was "disgusted" by the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust and felt that her son had been let down by the entire health service.

The inquest later heard that the chief executive of the trust had personally visited Mr Fitzsimons' parents at home and apologised over the loss of their son.

Paramedics were called to the family home at Black Causeway Road in the early hours of February 27, 2013, after Mrs Fitzsimons was woken to find her son extremely ill and writhing in pain on the hall floor.

The paramedics took Mr Fitzsimons to the hospital in a blue-light run and had pre-alerted the emergency department that he would need urgent attention.

He arrived by 4.40am and a senior nurse triaged him and listed him to be the first patient to be seen by a clinician as she recognised that he needed urgent attention.

However, it transpired that Mr Fitzsimons was later seen by a junior doctor.

Staff nurse Lisa Amos said in her evidence that she now wished Mr Fitzsimons had been seen by a senior clinician on the night.

His further deterioration led to surgery being performed the following morning with the consultant warning his family afterwards that the next 48 hours would be critical.

Mr Fitzsimons had been attending his GP, Dr Una Small, since August 2012 with a variety of complaints regarding pain in his stomach and problems going to the toilet.

At one point in November, his brother and mother contacted the family doctor to raise concerns that medication was not helping Mr Fitzsimons, who was losing significant weight.

However, the GP denied suggestions by the family's barrister, Michael Boyd QC, that she had not acted promptly to arrange a colonoscopy to investigate Mr Fitzsimons' symptoms.

At hearing.

Belfast Telegraph

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