April 28, 2010

Remember my story about the woman back from dead?

Well, here’s the sequel

A pregnant woman who made a full recovery despite being clinically dead for 30 minutes has given birth to a healthy baby boy.

Miracle mother Catherine Curran (40), of Malahide, Co. Dublin, gave birth to a strapping 5lbs 11oz boy on April 19 after being in labour for just two-and-a-half hours.

The mother-of-three went without oxygen for 30 minutes and was given the last rites after suffering cardiac arrest due to Sudden Adult Death Syndrome in the early stages of her pregnancy last September .

But the baby is perfectly healthy. “We named him Matthew — which means a ‘gift from God’ — because we thought it was very appropriate,” Mrs Curran said last night.

UCD’s Dr Gerry Bury said Mrs Curran’s remarkable recovery and the healthy birth of her baby were “astonishingly rare”. “You wouldn’t be wrong calling it one in a million,” he said.

Information source:


April 27, 2010

Dying to get home. It’s no fun getting stranded especially when you’re on your own. Just imagine it…

You’ve spent an exhausting day anxiously waiting for news. It seems no-one can tell you how long the wait will be. You try to pass the time by reading but the constant level of activity around you, makes it impossible to concentrate. Each time you visit the toilet, you risk losing the cramped space you’ve made your own.

Night time comes but there’s no prospect of getting any rest. Sleep is impossible in the noisy, brightly lit environment. You lie there exhausted hoping that tomorrow will be a better day.

Yes, I did feel sorry for all those people stranded in airports last week but not half as sorry as I feel for the many patients stranded every day in our overcrowded emergency departments while awaiting a hospital bed.

Four years have passed since our Health Minister, Mary Harney declared A&E overcrowding a national emergency yet still the number of patients on hospital trolleys continues to reach record highs.

Back from Dead

April 23, 2010

This is a true story. Note the date the 999 call was made.

A pregnant woman who was clinically dead for 30 minutes has made a full recovery and is about to give birth thanks to the heroic efforts of a paramedic team.

Catherine Curran, said she owes her life and that of her unborn baby to a paramedic team from the Dublin Fire Brigade and the Health Service Executive (HSE), who were honoured for their efforts at the weekend.

The mother of three went without oxygen for 30 minutes and was given the last rites after suffering cardiac arrest due to Sudden Adult Death Syndrome (SADS) on September 9, 2009.

She was eight weeks’ pregnant when she fell out of bed and stopped breathing until an advanced paramedic team from the HSE was able to revive her heart using a defibrillator and adrenaline injection.

She survived the initial attack but her prognosis was bleak and she was left temporarily blind, paralysed and cognitively impaired due to brain damage she suffered during the ordeal.

But six months later, after extensive rehabilitation therapy, she has all but recovered.

She is now looking forward to the birth of her baby next month, whose development appears to be normal.

“My recovery is miraculous and everybody has said that,” Mrs Curran said last night.

“I was told that only 6pc of people survive SADS and only 3pc of those are left unscathed.”

“My obstetrician said: ‘This is unknown territory for me.’ They had never seen someone who was pregnant go through this before.”


Ms Curran’s husband credits the swift action of the paramedic team for saving his wife and unborn child. “They did an absolutely amazing job. Every second is like hours for the potentially lethal damage to her and the baby,” he said.

He rang 999, which coincidentally corresponds to the date of the ordeal, and paramedic Joe Watson of the Tara Street brigade control room talked him through performing CPR over the phone, while a paramedic team rushed to their home.

They administered a defibrillator several times but Catherine continued to flatline until the combined effect of the defibrillator and injections revived her.

They then rushed her to Beaumont Hospital where she remained for two months after the ordeal.

The paramedic team, including Mr Watson and the five-man Dublin Fire Brigade unit and the HSE ambulance crew, were all given plaques for their efforts at a commendation ceremony on Saturday.

Dublin Fire Brigade Assistant Fire Chief Ritchie Hedderman said the brigade decided to honour the team after Mr Curran wrote him a letter expressing his gratitude.

“I was so impressed by the letter that I thought the fire brigade staff should be commended,” he said.

“It’s the first time we’ve had someone write back and say: ‘Well done, you saved my wife’s life’ and we thought we should reward them,” he said.

“It looked like a hopeless situation. But Mrs Curran is living proof that if you can get shock into someone soon enough, their chances of recovery are excellent.”

Information Source: – 30 March 2010.

It’s not rocket science

April 22, 2010

Everyone has heard of the hospital superbug MRSA and many have a view on how to stop it. MRSA is a serious problem in Ireland. A new report released this week has found that MRSA is costing Irish hospitals more than €23 million every year. Ireland ranks fourth in Europe for MRSA bloodstream infection rates with only Portugal, Greece and Italy ahead. Much of the media coverage on reducing the incidence of MRSA tends to concentrate on hospital cleaning and poor hygiene. This latest report addresses the whole story about MRSA.

The MRSA in Ireland: Addressing the Issues report, was conducted by a multidisciplinary advisory group including microbiologists, hospital pharmacists and patient advocates, and sponsored by healthcare firm Pfizer. The report found that the cost of dealing with healthcare associated infections (HCAI) totalled €233.75 million a year, with the MRSA cost representing 10 per cent of the overall figure. The main factor contributing to the cost is the increased length of stay by patients in hospital. Patients with MRSA spend, on average, 2.5 times longer in hospital.

Commenting on the report, Dr Edmond Smyth, Consultant microbiologist at Beaumont Hospital and chairman of the MRSA group, said that we need to “improve patient staff ratios; have laboratories on hospital sites that provide rapid diagnosis for MRSA and other infections; be able to isolate patients; ensure that doctors and nurses and healthcare workers generally wash their hands before and after any contact with a patient; ensure that we use antibiotics appropriately; discharge patients home earlier.”

“It’s the simple things,” Dr Smyth says. “There’s no rocket science here, we just need to do all these simple things at the same time.”

It may not be rocket science but at a time when the health service is facing over €1 billion in cutbacks and with the present economic downturn, I can’t really see all this happening, can you?

Cartoon by Chris Slane

Information source: TV3 News and The Irish Times.

Notts It’s Not

April 19, 2010

I’ve been volcanoed. I was meant to be in Nottingham today for a post-operative review but with Irish airspace closed, I ain’t going nowhere. Unlike all those unfortunate people who are waiting desperately for a flight home, the flight cancellations have actually worked to my advantage. For once, luck has been on my side.

I woke this morning with a nasty ache in one side of my head. As the day has progressed, I’ve only partially succeeded in blocking out the pain with prescription painkillers. I’m no stranger to headaches like this so I’m well used to ploughing on with the day regardless but travelling by air, is a different story. I flew to the UK over Easter and it took days for my head to settle down afterwards. As a result, I wasn’t looking forward to today’s flights at all. When I woke up feeling rough this morning, the flight cancellations seemed all the sweeter.

The surgeon in Notts is away for the next few weeks so volcano permitting, I’ve booked another appointment to see him in mid-May. I wasn’t best pleased to find that the appointment falls on my birthday but there you go. You win some, you lose some and today, I’m happy to be the winner.

Did You Know?

April 18, 2010

Chocolate is a great economy booster.

An average person will consume 10,000 chocolate bars in a lifetime.

The melting point of cocoa butter is just below the human body temperature – which is why it literally melts in your mouth.

The reason chocolate tastes so delicious is not only due to it’s silky texture, sweet smell, rich flavour and ideal melting temperature. It is also (arguably) good for you.

So next time you’re sitting there sucking a beautifully melting square in your mouth, just think… the flavanols in it enhance your brain power, the antioxidants reduce free radicals, helping to prevent cancer, heart disease and stroke. The sugar is giving you energy and finally the pheromones will make you more attractive.

That’s what I told myself anyhow while eating a tasty new dessert.

But remember, everything in moderation!

I Know Him So Well

April 15, 2010

I traipsed into the hospital again this week as the recurring symptoms in my head had begun to wear me down. I was in need of reassurance and I knew that the surgeon would put me straight. After years of dealing with the infections in my head, we’ve got to know and respect each other well.

On entering the examination room, the surgeon asked if I would mind having two young medical students present while he examined my head. I was perfectly happy to agree to this, in fact I positively welcomed it. I knew from previous experience that it was likely to add an interesting dimension to the consultation.

While the surgeon was preparing the endoscope, I chatted to the two female students to put them at ease. I asked them what they thought of the new HPAT (Health Professionals Admission Test)* which was introduced last year as part of the entry exam for medicine. They reckoned the test had evened out the ratio of male/female students that succeeded in getting into medical school last year. In recent years, the percentage of students studying medicine has been 70/30 in favour of females. This would suggest that an aptitude test suits the male psyche better, while swotting for exams is more of a female forte. The surgeon then piped up and declared that if he or any of his colleagues were asked to sit the HPAT today, he reckoned they’d all fail. We all laughed at this concept.

The room went silent while the surgeon delved deep inside my head with the endoscope. Shortly afterwards, he emerged with a large lump of something horrible and announced triumphantly “that’s some bogey”. I’m beyond mortification at this stage so I just grinned over at the two girls who looked horrified on my behalf. The students looked on in silence as the surgeon and I continued to banter about the state of my head. The many years of treatment have left us both comfortable enough in each other’s presence, to be able to employ banter as a coping mechanism. The girls were not aware of my previous medical/surgical history and therefore had no idea that I knew this surgeon so well. The look of disbelief on their faces, was priceless.

When the surgeon had finished his task, he took photographs of the inside of my head and used these to reassure me about the cause of my present symptoms. It appears that the donor site used for the recent graft surgery, is slow to heal and is causing irritation to surrounding structures. My post-operative check-up in Nottingham next week, should elicit more information on this. The good news is that the graft continues to heal well.

Before I exited the room, the surgeon gave me a big grin as he explained to the students that I was no ordinary patient. “This is a very rare case”, they were told.  I grinned back and left him to explain.

*The HPAT allows all Leaving Cert students with over 480 points to apply for medicine. Entry is decided by a combination of CAO points and HPAT results, which examines spacial and logical reasoning, problem-solving and interpersonal skills.

With thanks to the Amateur Transplants for the parody.

In case you didn’t know… the ABC used in the above video, is a well-known mnemonic for AIRWAY, BREATHING and CIRCULATION. The ABC protocol exists to remind rescuers delivering emergency treatment to an unconscious or unresponsive patient, of the importance of airway, breathing, and circulation to the maintenance of a patient’s life.

24 Little Hours

April 9, 2010

I was feeling a little sorry for myself yesterday when an email arrived from a blogging friend. Her supportive email was just the tonic needed. You see, this friend knows only too well what it’s like to deal with a long term illness. It felt so good to be understood.

Today, I received a text message from another dear friend who lives locally and it really made me stop and think.

Her text message read…“Hi, just to say thanks. I’ve seen and learned so much from you about managing your health responsibly and with a cool mind. From what I’ve observed over the years, I always knew that you had courage and now I’m experiencing how vital that is!

This old friend of mine has recently been diagnosed with a nasty autoimmune syndrome and is slowly coming to terms with the fact that she now has to learn how to live with a long term illness. I’ve been so tied up with my own woes of late that I’m guilty of not giving her the level of support she needs and deserves. I suspected from the nature of her text that she must have been reading my blog on the quiet as I rarely dwell on my health problems in ‘real’ life. When I enquired if this was the case, to my surprise she replied “not yet but I will.”

I’m aware from the supportive comments received on this blog from people I’ve never met that I give the impression of being ‘level headed’ when it comes to dealing with illness. I think this is because the blog gives me free rein to talk about coping with illness in a way that is rarely facilitated elsewhere. I’ve often wondered how my coping strategies are perceived by people who I meet in everyday life.  I would hate to think I was known as a moaning minnie.

I’m now mightily relieved. What a difference a day makes!