‘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
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
Joan and Walter Comerford lost their son Niallin 2012