Cork Coroner’s Court was told that although not fatal, the significant head injuries suffered in the fall at Cork University Hospital brought about Mr Dominique Olande’s death “at that time”. City coroner Dr Myra Cullinane recorded a verdict of accidental death.
The inquest heard how Mr Olande, originally from France but who lived in Oakwood Lodge, Midleton, suffered from severe alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver.
He was due to be admitted to the hospital under the care of liver specialist Dr Orla Crosbie. However, he presented at the hospital’s A&E unit on August 13, 2007, with severe leg swelling, and was admitted.
At about 4.30pm on the afternoon of August 17, he walked unaided to the bathroom in his six-bed ward.
Nurse Francisco Aquino said he told Mr Olande to alert him using the alarm chord when he was finished.
Mr Aquino then left the ward but said he rushed back when he heard a loud noise a few minutes later.
He found Mr Olande lying on his back in the vinyl-tiled toilet. He was fully conscious and apparently uninjured and was helped back to bed.
Mr Aquino said routine observations, which included standard neurological checks, showed nothing unusual. But Mr Olande’s condition worsened an hour later — he was wheezy and his blood oxygen levels fell — and he was transferred to an observation unit.
Staff nurse Elizabeth Detablan said the patient was drowsy, but responsive, during his time there.
However, he suffered a seizure at 9.30pm and frothy blood seeped from his mouth. At 9.55pm, he went in to cardiac arrest.
Doctors battled for 25 minutes to save him but he was pronounced dead at 10.25pm.
Assistant state pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster told Mr Olande’s wife that she found a large 7cm fracture at the back of her husband’s skull and severe bruising in the brain, which were caused by the fall.
They were significant injuries and not enough to cause death on their own, she said. But combined with Mr Olande’s end-stage liver disease, the head injuries were enough to cause death at that time.
Dr Cullinane said although Mr Olande’s health outlook was poor, death occurred on that day because of the fall.