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Inquest told car dealer may have been misdiagnosed



The inquiry into the unexpected death of a well-known car dealer heard that he may have been misdiagnosed in a private hospital, which could ultimately have reduced his chances of survival.

The late JJ Fleming (60), of Blackrock, Salthill, walked into the Galway Clinic on November 6 2013 complaining of numbness in his legs, but died in Bon Secours Hospital on December 8 – where he had been transferred, at the request of his wife.

“If he’d seen a neurologist straight away, and had the appropriate treatment, we would not need an inquest,” Maria Fleming told the inquiry at Galway Courthouse on Thursday. “Why did it take nine days for them (Galway Clinic) to seek a neurologist’s opinion?”

The father of four had been on holidays in Spain in November 2013 when he began to feel unwell. He went home early to attend an out-patient’s appointment with consultant urologist, Dr David Boucher Hayes, in the Galway Clinic, as he was heading away himself the following day.

His wife said that he had an uncomfortable night at home on November 5, however, and was advised to pack an overnight bag so that he could be admitted to the Clinic for routine tests.

He walked in the following day, and was told that he did not have prostate or urological problems – as he had been told by his GP and hospital staff in Spain – but rather five trapped nerves in his back.

“I arrived back on November 9, and was alarmed to hear that he needed surgery,” Mrs Fleming said.

Urgent decompression was required, she was told, as his condition was deteriorating daily, his legs were weakening, and he now walked with a limp.

She questioned why the surgery was not performed until November 13 – a full week after being admitted. And, she said that his condition actually got worse after the operation.

Her husband complained all day after the surgery of a burning sensation in his legs, but was told that it was normal.

She said that it was not until a year later, when she received a claim form from the VHI, that she found out he had been brought back to the operating theatre the following day as an MRI had confirmed a bleed.

“Nine days after surgery he was essentially paralysed… He questioned his care, and voiced his concern,” she said.

He was seen by Dr Michael Hennessy, a consultant neurologist visiting from the Bon Secours Hospital, and diagnosed with mononeuritis multiplex, which is damage to one or more peripheral nerves – the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord.

On Dr Hennessy’s advice, and on the requests of Mrs Fleming, her husband was transferred to Bons Secours Hospital on November 25, where he was admitted under a new team, put on steroids, and a marked improvement followed.

“There was a total transformation, and his mood improved greatly – they were all so much more positive about his recovery,” she said.

Their daughter had set a date for her wedding in August 2014, and Mr Fleming was determined that he would be able to walk her up the aisle.

“It gave us great hope,” his wife said. “I was advised to make changes to our home, as he would be coming home in a wheelchair.”

However, his condition deteriorated in the early hours of December 5, and he became unresponsive.

“When I arrived, he was motionless in the bed, the neurologist said that he had suffered a major brain haemorrhage… he looked like he was asleep,” Mrs Fleming recalled.

He passed away on December 8 and, when his wife called to the Bons Secours Hospital in March 2014 for the results of the post-mortem examination, she was told by the consultant that her husband may have been initially mis-diagnosed; that the inflammation of his spinal nerve roots could only have been detected by a neurologist.

“He said that he had not required the initial treatments (operations), that it would have been steroids (treatment) – which is what he had in the Bons,” she said.

“I was shocked that he’d had two surgeries in the Clinic that he had not required.”

However, Dr John Burke, an orthopaedic surgeon at the Galway Clinic told the inquiry that Mr Fleming’s symptoms “fitted with Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES)…”

This condition affects the nerve roots in the lower end of the spinal cord, and needs to be dealt with urgently, as it would have worsened with time. He added that compressed nerves were discovered when Mr Fleming went under the knife.

However, he acknowledged that this may not have been a correct diagnosis. “When he began to worsen, I knew it was another factor, and called in Dr Michael Hennessy,” he said.

This initial diagnosis was shared by other consultants, who had assessed Mr Fleming while he was a patient in the Galway Clinic – among them, Dr Ronan Kavanagh, an expert in the area of inflammatory diseases, and Mr Fleming’s rheumatologist since 2010.

Former Consultant Neuropathologist at Beaumont Hospital, Professor Michael Farrell, carried a post-mortem examination on the brain, and submitted a report to the Inquest, which was read into the record.

He concluded that death was due to a stroke, most likely caused by “extreme” arteriolar sclerosis, which is common in diabetics, from which Mr Fleming suffered for 30 years.

His findings in relation to what caused the initial complaints, while on holidays, were at odds with some of the other medical evidence given on the day, and Mrs Fleming’s legal team requested that Prof. Farrell would attend the Inquest at an adjourned date in September.

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest



Significant state investment is required to address ‘shocking’ inequalities that leave cancer patients in the West at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers than the national average, and with the most deprived quintile of the population, the West’s residents faced poorer outcomes from a cancer diagnosis.

For breast cancer patients, the five-year survival rate was 80% in the West versus 85% nationally; for lung cancer patients it was 16.7% in the west against a 19.5% national survival rate; and in the West’s colorectal cancer patients, there was a 62.6% survival rate where the national average was 63.1%.

These startling statistics were provided in answer to a question from Ballinasloe-based Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) who said it was yet another reminder that cancer treatment infrastructure in the West was in dire need of improvement.

“The situation is pretty stark. In the Western Regional Health Forum area, we have the highest incidence of deprivation and the highest health inequalities because of that – we have the highest incidences of cancer nationally because of that,” said Cllr Parsons, who is also a general practitioner.

In details provided by CEO of Saolta Health Care Group, which operates Galway’s hospitals, it was stated that a number of factors were impacting on patient outcomes.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Marathon Man plans to call a halt – but not before he hits 160 races



Loughrea’s Marathon Man Jarlath Fitzgerald.

On the eve of completing his 150th marathon, an odyssey that has taken him across 53 countries, Loughrea’s Marathon Man has announced that he is planning to hang up his running shoes.

But not before Jarlath Fitzgerald completes another ten races, making it 160 marathons on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

“I want to draw the line in 2026. I turn 57 in October and when I reach 60 it’s the finishing line. The longer races are taking it out of me. I did 20 miles there two weeks ago and didn’t feel good. It’s getting harder,” he reveals.

“I’ve arthritis in both hips and there’s wear and tear in the knees.”

We speak as he is about to head out for a run before his shift in Supervalu Loughrea. Despite his physical complaints, he still clocks up 30 miles every second week and generally runs four days a week.

Jarlath receives injections to his left hip to keep the pain at bay while running on the road.

To give his joints a break, during the winter he runs cross country and often does a five-mile trek around Kylebrack Wood.

He is planning on running his 150th marathon in Cork on June 4, where a group of 20 made up of work colleagues, friends and running mates from Loughrea Athletics Club will join him.

Some are doing the 10k, others are doing the half marathon, but all will be there on the finishing line to cheer him on in the phenomenal achievement.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises



From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

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