Woman was not told her dying partner had sepsis

Geraldine Barry, second from left, with her sisters, from left, Aileen, Evelyn, and Jane, at the High Court yesterday. Picture: Courtpix

A woman broke down in tears in the High Court yesterday when she told how she watched her partner die weeks after an operation at Mercy University Hospital, Cork, and how she was not told there was sepsis.

Geraldine Barry said the term septic shock was never used to her.

Ms Barry, aged 44, of Lakemarsh, Church Cross, Skibbereen, Co Cork, had sued Mercy University Hospital, Cork City as a result of the death of her partner Christopher Sayer, 70.

Ms Barry’s claim was also for nervous shock.

Mr Sayer, who was diagnosed with cancer, had a colon operation at the Mercy Hospital on March 11, 2010. Initially he appeared to make a good recovery, but subsequently became unwell on the evening of March 15, 2010, and developed septic shock due to a leak. He had to have further surgery on March 17.

It was claimed the hospital staff at Mercy University Hospital did not act with due expedition in diagnosing and treating the leak. He died on April 19, 2010.

The court heard the hospital admitted liability in relation to Mr Sayer’s post-operative care and the case is before Mr Justice Anthony Barr for assessment of damages only.

Senior counsel Liam Reidy said palliative care was far from sufficient in that Mr Sayer’s mouth became ulcerated. At one stage before her partner’s death, Mr Reidy said a doctor at the bedside asked if an autopsy was required.

Counsel said if Mr Sayer had been properly treated, it would have been successful and there was a 77% chance of being alive after five years. There were, he said, signs of developing sepsis and if this had been dealt with the second operation would have been successful and Mr Sayer would not have suffered cerebral damage.

Ms Barry, he said, is now “profoundly lonely”, suffers from flashbacks and had to give up her job.

In evidence, Ms Barry said she met Mr Sayer who was a retired antiques dealer and a well-known jazz musician in Cork, in 2005.

She said there was an age difference, but “you know when something is for you”. She said he was a witty, funny, handsome man and they enjoyed each other’s company and moved in together in June 2006.

Before he had gone in to hospital, he had signalled they would get married.

In 2009, she said, Mr Sayer became unwell and had abdominal cramps. He had gone to other hospitals and was referred for a colonoscopy in February 2010. He was told he had a tumour and he was referred to Mercy Hospital for an operation which he had on March 10.

Five days later, Ms Barry said when she went to visit Mr Sayer in hospital, she was very concerned about what she saw and he did not seem like somebody who was getting better.

Ms Barry said there was no thought in her mind that Mr Sayer was going to die. She said she remembers the next day running from her car in to the ward and seeing a nurse and two doctors standing by his bed.

“Chris was in an extraordinary amount of distress,” she said. “I had never seen anything like his. His eyes were going in his head. They were just standing there and a doctor patted him on the head and then walked past me.”

When she followed the doctors, she said she was told her partner was okay and just needed fluids.

She added: “I have that picture in my head. He went from a very articulate man in the morning to this. He was losing consciousness. I never got to speak to him agin.”

The case before Mr Justice Anthony Barr continues today.

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