Boxer 'waited 12 hours for hospital bed', inquest hears

A boxer's organs shut down one by one as he waited in A&E for an intensive care bed for more than 12 hours, an inquest heard today.

A boxer's organs shut down one by one as he waited in A&E for an intensive care bed for more than 12 hours, an inquest heard today.

Stephen Keeler, a 28-year-old painter and decorator, had visited his GP and three Dublin hospitals in the days before he died on July 10, 2002.

Dublin City Coroner's Court heard Mr Keeler, from Rossmore Drive in Ballyfermot, had been discharged from two major A&E units before being rushed to hospital a third time.

He died in the intensive therapy unit at St James' Hospital.

A keen boxer, his family maintain he had returned to full health after being stabbed in the back and a minor road traffic collision some seven months previously.

The inquest heard the father of one first visited his local GP on July 8 and complained of breathlessness when walking and chest pain.

Dr Eugene O'Connell said fearing the patient had a collapsed lung, he was referred to Tallaght Hospital, where he was x-rayed, given an antibiotic, and discharged.

The following morning Mr Keeler complained of feeling worse.

"He looked quite ill, with a bluish tinge," said the GP. "I was quite concerned and called an ambulance to administer oxygen and transport him to St James. I would call an ambulance to my surgery once or twice a year and never for that age group."

Paul Keeler said his brother looked like a corpse in St James' A&E unit that night and could not believe he was about to be discharged.

"He looked grey in the face, his lips were blue and his breathing was very bad," he said. "They said he had a slight touch of pneumonia and gave him a stronger antibiotic."

At around 4am the following morning Mr Keeler's condition deteriorated and his girlfriend Denise Doyle called an ambulance to her city-centre home.

The inquest heard the patient was rushed to the Mater Hospital where he waited for a bed in an intensive care unit for more than 12 hours before being transferred to St James' Hospital at around 5pm.

Paul Keeler said: "They told me his organs were shutting down one by one. He was transferred from the Mater to St James' to an intensive care bed. He died some time shortly after 10pm."

Dr Geoff Keye, an A&E consultant in Tallaght Hospital who treated Mr Keeler after the stabbing, said he did not believe there was any connection between the incident and his death.

The medic told the hearing it must remain a possibility that there was a small puncture would inflicted to the left lung, but added there was no clinical evidence of any puncture and that it was unlikely Mr Keeler had an infection for seven months.

"All in all, I don't feel there is any connection between the two," he added.

Opening the hearing, Dublin City Coroner Dr Brian Farrell told the jury of five men and three women that the case had been mentioned almost 30 times over the last three years.

He said the death had been subject to a garda probe before it was referred to the coroner's office in October 2003. The family then took a landmark action against the State claiming part of the Coroners Act 1962 - which stated that a coroner could not take evidence from more than two medical witnesses - was unconstitutional.

The legal challenge paved the way for a change in the law.

The inquest was halted on another occasion when it emerged some members of a jury had known the victim's family.

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