Man died within hour of hospital discharge

A Mullingar man who died as a result of an irregular heartbeat within an hour of being discharged from hospital could have died at any time without warning, an inquest has heard.

Eamon Johnson (47 ) of Grove Court, Mullingar had left the Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar in good form and without symptoms after specific medical tests showed he was not at risk of having a heart attack.

Pathologist Dr Miriam Walsh told Westmeath Coroner’s Court this week that her post-mortem examination of Mr Johnson’s heart showed he could have experienced heart arrhythmia or irregular heart beat at any time without warning.

Mr Johnson attended his doctor on February 7 this year because he hadexperienced a gastric burning sensation a number of times that morning.

His GP said an ECG he carried out was slightly irregular and required further investigation because as an overweight smoker Mr Johnson was at risk of heart-attack.

He offered Mr Johnson an ambulance to Ballinasloe, but he said he wanted to go to Mullingar and he declined the ambulance and was instead driven by his wife.

The inquest heard that a variety of tests carried out that afternoon at the Midlands Regional Hospital, Mullingar were clear and Mr Johnson was symptom free when he was discharged at 6pm with an appointment for a heart stress test.

However he collapsed an hour later in a local pub.

Customers believed he was having a fit and contacted an ambulance. A local man administered CPR and despite the best efforts of the public, ambulance staff, and doctors he did not survive.

He received adrenaline and nine defibrillator resuscitation attempts but was pronounced dead in the hospital shortly after 8.30pm in front of his wife Margaret and brother Nigel who had been advised to brave stormy weather to attend the hospital.

The hospital was not aware that he had the blood condition haemochromatosis, but consultant Dr Hilary Cronin said it would have made no difference to his acute treatment that day.

Mrs Margaret Johnson said the hospital should have known because he had been treated for pneumonia in recent years, but Dr Cronin said she wasn’t his doctor at that time and that he hadn’t attended some of his follow-up appointments.

If he had been in hospital at the time he experienced the irregular heartbeat, he would statistically have had a better chance of surviving.

Dr Walsh noted older scarring to Mr Johnson’s heart and the presence of heart disease and said the irregular heartbeat incident which cost him his life could have happened at any time and without any warning.

After hearing evidence from a number of medical professionals, coroner Dr Wilfred Hoover was satisfied all appropriate protocols were followed in full and that Mr Johnson had died of natural causes, with cause of death being irregular heartbeat arising from heart disease.

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