Inquests can be traumatic for bereaved relatives. So what drove one Limerick family to seek two inquests into the death of their father, Mike Daly Snr?
In March, a second inquest recorded a verdict of medical misadventure, overturning the verdict of natural causes reached in 2012, leading Mr Daly's son to say: “We finally got justice for my dad.”
Mr Daly Snr, 64, died at Milford Hospice, Limerick in 2010, following what his son Mike Daly Jnr remembers as “horrendous suffering” after an operation in 2007.
His father had surgery at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) after being diagnosed with bowel cancer. However, he continued to suffer from post-operative bleeding and pain, and endured multiple hospital admissions and attendances between 2008 and his death.
The family did not accept the results of the first inquest and tried to have it reopened, unaware of how rare this is.
“I plagued the Coroner by email nearly daily, begging for him to reopen the inquest, even protesting outside his office with all my family,” Mike said.
“In hindsight, I now know his hands were tied and he could only open another inquest if new evidence came up.”
That moment came when crucial documents were identified among over 6,000 records from UHL and St John’s hospitals, following years of research.
Mike dedicated three days weekly to the search, supported by a legal nurse, alongside his security guard job.
Mike said a 2009 blood test stated that “my dad had toxic granulation in his blood, this is a massive indicator of serious infection, ie sepsis".
There was also a letter from his father’s cardiologist.
“(This) was dated the same day as my Dad dying, and basically said under no circumstances is the heart to blame for Mr Daly’s death" he said, “and basically the sepsis drove the heart failure".
When he reported this to UL Hospital Group, they replied in November 2016, saying laboratory reports are not printed for FOI requests unless specifically requested.
They said: “This (cardiologist’s) letter was dictated after your father was transferred to Milford Hospice, it should have been filed in his HealthCare Record, this was indeed an oversight, and I apologize for same.”
Shortly after sharing the records with the coroner, a second inquest was announced.
He remembers, with teary eyes: “For us to see him have about 120 seizures over a few days, you couldn’t forget that. My mother had to witness all of that, my sisters.”
He recalls one brief moment of lucidity before his father passed.
“I don’t know where he got the strength but he uttered one word, ‘revenge’,” he said.
“I looked at my sister and said did you hear what he said, and she said ‘revenge’.”
The first inquest lasted “two hours maybe,” he said.
In March, Coroner John McNamara heard from 13 people, including expert witnesses he commissioned.
“It was so surreal sitting there listening because everything that all the experts said, were my findings from my investigation of my dad’s death,” Mike said.
Surgeon Raphael Keane removed a 6cm cancerous tumour from Mr Daly Snr’s bowel and treated him. He gave evidence he was sure Mr Daly did not suffer a bowel leak.
The court also heard from former Senior House Officer Dr Dinuk Wijewardene and Clinical nurse manager Camel O’ Sullivan of their concerns.
Former State Pathologist Marie Cassidy said based on medical records she reviewed, Mr Daly Snr suffered chronic sepsis.
She said there was no active focus on sepsis described at the time of death.
The coroner recorded that findings from 2012 on causes of death be modified from cardiac failure, to cardiac failure and cardiac disease on a background
of recent bowel cancer, surgeries, infection, sepsis, and peritonitis.
For Mike, this was a huge relief. However, he remains extremely frustrated it took so long.
He has many questions around why they were not supported by the medical system in finding answers, and plans to keep asking.
Mike Daly Jnr still has memories of better times with his dad, which he shares with his own teenage daughter.
“He was a great dad. When he wasn’t working and on weekends he would bring us swimming out on the river,” he said.
“Back in the 1980s you’d go to a river to swim. There was a place called Shannon Fields that was famous for picnics and swimming.”
Layla has grown up without her grandfather, he said.
“She grew up loving him,” he said. “She knows him, and that’s the only thing I am proud about, she does know him though she’s never met him.”
A UL Hospital Group spokesman said: “UL Hospitals Group notes the findings and verdict of the Coroner's Court in Kilmallock on Thursday March 9. We would like to take this opportunity to extend our sympathies to Mr Daly and his family on the loss of their father.”