Limerick family of daughter with special needs who attacked mum 'beg for help'

Family tried for two weeks to get woman into 5B after incident

Donal O'Regan


Donal O'Regan

Limerick family of ill daughter who attacked mum 'beg for help'

The family of the woman with special needs tried for two weeks to get her into 5B at UHL

UNIVERSITY Hospital Limerick “wanted to discharge” a 39-year-old woman with special needs, who had attacked her mother, back in to the care of the elderly lady, say her family.

Her brother contacted the Limerick Leader saying “Please help, I don't know what else to do” as they tried for over two weeks to get her admitted to the acute psychiatric unit – 5B.

“My defenceless, helpless, special needs sister is being treated like a person who is valued at less than nothing,” he said.

Twelve years ago he said his sister had a nervous breakdown and would lash out physically due to frustration and depression. 

“We had no option but to have her admitted to 5B. After three months with the correct care, treatment, medication and love, she overcame her depression and breakdown, and has been her loving self, living with my mother since,” he said.

On Wednesday, June 21, she got extremely upset, cried, saying her head was “every way”.

“She lashed out at my mother. My mother knew it was another nervous breakdown, as all the signs were the same as before. The next day she was becoming very aggressive. On Friday, June 23 she was much worse.”

The county Limerick family contacted their long-time doctor who said go to UHL and have her admitted to 5B where “she would be given the correct treatment”. 

Four family members accompanied her to A&E. After “suicidal thoughts” were mentioned during a consultation she got up from the chair and attacked her mother.

“Security guards were called and placed outside the door of the room. We were asked to wait outside until she had been given a sedative. We were called 30 minutes later and told she was being kept in. This was around 9.30pm and at 10.20pm we decided to go home as my 70-year-old mother was worn out and very upset.

“At 11.15pm the hospital rang to say she had been assessed and they were discharging her. How they could possibly want to discharge a patient, while on a sedative, after the incident that had occurred two hours earlier is absolutely mind-boggling. We stated we had been told she was being admitted overnight. 

“At 4am, the phone rang and a message was left to come and collect her as she was being discharged. From 6.30am the landline and mobile phone kept ringing constantly for us to collect her as she was ‘fine’. My mum rang Caredoc to see what her options were and the nurse advised her that in no way my sister should be let home if she was being aggressive,” he said.

When he went to see her in A&E later that day, “I was told that we were to take her home”.

“I argued my case, that she was in no fit state to be going home, and be placed in a house with her defenceless elderly mother when she was in such an aggressive phase. I told them that she would physically hurt my mother and would throw anything she could get her hands on, including knives. Their response was to keep all items including knives out her her reach. 

“I told them she couldn’t go home without treatment, and their response was the decision was made and we needed to take her home immediately. I was flabbergasted and couldn't quite believe what I was hearing.”

“I had to make the heart breaking decision of just walking out the door, leaving my special needs sister, who I adore, all alone. We were put in an impossible position.” 

She was moved to a public ward and they have spent the last two weeks trying to get her into 5B.

“The doctors and nurses were lovely, I want to stress that. We were fighting to get her to be moved to the proper place she should be in, which is the psychiatric ward of 5B.

“She wasn’t getting the treatment she needed in the ward. She was getting agitated and very weak. It has been awful, absolutely awful, my elderly mother was worn out.

“My sister has special needs and if you tell her something you have to do it. She wanted to go to 5B because she knows that will help her get home. She has child-like emotions but is very clever and is astutely aware.”

After the family contacted the Limerick Leader a media query was sent to the HSE this Tuesday morning. At 3pm that day she was admitted to the 5B.

“No way would she have been moved without ye following it up. It had gone on for over two weeks. It has been awful, absolutely awful what we as a family and especially my sister has been through. We want to highlight this and it might help someone else. I saw her on Tuesday night in 5B and she was in much better form – she knows she will get the treatment there,” said the brother who has kept a diary of what happened that is over 3,000 words long.

In response to the media query a UL Hospitals spokesperson said it could not comment on individual cases for reasons of patient confidentiality.

“The acute psychiatric unit 5B is located on the UHL site but is under the governance of HSE Midwest Community Healthcare. There is a dedicated space in the new emergency department (ED) at UHL for patients presenting with a mental health crisis, offering greater levels of privacy and dignity to patients.

“Each patient presenting to the ED at UHL is assessed based on their clinical presentation. A plan of care for each patient is decided based on their presenting condition by the ED or on call teams. This may or may not require admission to the hospital.

“If a psychiatric assessment is required then one is sought, this may or may not require admission to the acute psychiatric unit and depending on the patients clinical presentation, a patient may be admitted under the consultant on call to the main hospital with the input of the psychiatric services, similar to other specialties. If a referral is required to community based services, this would be done on discharge.”