‘No words can de­scribe the trauma of los­ing Niall’

Joan and Wal­ter Comer­ford were left dev­as­tated by the death of their 22 year-old son from a post-op blood clot. Now a new HSE cam­paign is urg­ing pa­tients to be alert for the warn­ing signs. By Ar­lene Har­ris

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - REAL LIFE -

NIALL Comer­ford had al­ways been fit and healthy. Ac­cord­ing to his mum Joan, the se­cond of her four chil­dren was a happy boy be­fore be­com­ing a young man with ‘lofty am­bi­tions’ who was en­joy­ing life as a le­gal stu­dent at Water­ford In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy when in 2010, he fell on his left knee.

Af­ter re­ceiv­ing med­i­cal treat­ment, it was deemed that the Kilkenny man, who was 20 at the time, was re­cov­ered enough to get on with his life.

How­ever, he ex­pe­ri­enced re­cur­rent bouts of pain and af­ter two years, he was re­ferred for surgery on his knee. It was not con­sid­ered a com­plex op­er­a­tion and af­ter a few days of re­cu­per­a­tion, he re­turned to col­lege.

The fol­low­ing day, he col­lapsed and died. The 22-year-old suf­fered a post-op­er­a­tive blood clot which trag­i­cally claimed his life.

Niall’s dis­traught fam­ily say they will never get over their loss as he was a young man in the prime of his life with noth­ing to in­di­cate that he was at risk of de­vel­op­ing a clot.

“When Niall came down on his knee while work­ing in his part-time job, he un­der­went ex­ten­sive phys­io­ther­apy for a num­ber of months and was then re­ferred to hos­pi­tal, where an arthroscopy was per­formed,” re­calls his mum, Joan.

“He even­tu­ally made a rea­son­able re­cov­ery but con­tin­ued to suf­fer pe­ri­od­i­cally with pain and dis­com­fort, which re­sulted in him be­ing re­ferred for a day-case pro­ce­dure to re­move the os­si­cle tib­ial.

“On dis­charge he was given a pre­scrip­tion for parac­eta­mol and a tubic ban­dage to re­place the crepe ban­dage af­ter 72 hours — and was in­structed to re­turn af­ter 10 days to have stitches re­moved.

“He fol­lowed the in­struc­tions but af­ter putting on the tubic ban­dage he felt pins and nee­dles in his calf fol­lowed by some dis­coloura­tion, which soon faded.

The Comer­fords be­lieve that had Niall been given an af­ter­care in­for­ma­tion sheet, he might have been made aware of the pos­si­bil­ity of a blood clot and he would have con­tacted the hos­pi­tal, where he could have re­ceived ap­pro­pri­ate treat­ment.

In­stead, he was to­tally un­aware of any dan­ger and on Septem­ber 30, 2012 — six days af­ter his op­er­a­tion — his mother drove him back to col­lege and said she would see him the fol­low­ing week.

It was the last time she saw him alive. “On Mon­day, Oc­to­ber 1, our lives changed for­ever when I re­ceived a call say­ing Niall had col­lapsed and was be­ing taken by am­bu­lance

PIC­TURE: DY­LAN VAUGHAN

Joan and Wal­ter Comer­ford lost their son Niallin 2012

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