*Meagan, Carol, James and Kate Johnston surrounded by family and friends. 

AOIFE JOHNSTON’s family have spoke of the “devastating” loss they have experienced since her death.

Members of the Johnston family wept outside Kilmallock Courthouse following an emotional four-day inquest by Limerick Coroner John McNamara into the circumstances surrounding the death of the Shannon teenager.

A verdict of death by medical misadventure was returned by McNamara. Aoife had waited over fifteen hours for the antibiotics that would have saved her life. She died on 19th December 2022.

The Johnstons expressed their shock at the description of the University Hospital Limerick (UHL)’s emergency department as a “death-trap” by emergency consultant Dr James Gray on the weekend that Aoife sought life-saving treatment.

“It is terrifying [to hear that]. I would be terrified myself,” Aoife’s mother Carol said.”We brought Aoife where we told her she would be looked after but she was not. We told her she was in the best place. We told her to get some rest and that the doctors would be here soon. But the doctors never came”.

Meagan Johnston, Aoife’s eldest sister said her absence from their life has been “devastating”.
She said, “I will never forget Aoife – she was just the best sister ever. It kills me all the time that I never got to say goodbye to her. When I got back [to UHL] Aoife was already gone – I will never forget that drive into the Intensive Care Unit,” she said.

“I immediately made my boyfriend drive me there to see my sister. I never got to say goodbye to my little sister. I never go to say goodbye to her – she was gone. I never got to see my sister complete her Leaving Cert, I never got to see her do her graduation, I never saw my sister moving onto the next chapter with her boyfriend. He is left heartbroken,” Meagan outlined.

Meagan said when she was told Aoife was in hospital she thought she would be OK. “But then the next morning… to get the call that she was in ICU. I didn’t know what to do?” she said. “That’s my baby sister and we never get to see her again. I am so grateful [for] this beautiful girl. She was such a beautiful girl inside and out. She was an amazing person and I will cherish the memories of her forever and ever. I am so sorry Aoife for what happened to you. But my Mum and Dad did everything they possibly could for her”.

Kate Johnston said she wanted everyone to know the person her younger sister Aoife was. “She was such a nice and kind person,” she said through tears outside the court.

Both James and Carol pleaded for action to tackle the overcrowding crisis at UHL and warned they don’t want any other family to endure the nightmare they have suffered. “Aoife at the minute is remembered as being the girl that died on a trolley,” Carol said. “That is how Aoife is known. In time, when me and James can talk to people properly, they will get to know the real Aoife and the lovely 16-year-old girl she was. She was our baby who we loved very, very much. Her sisters loved her very, very much. She was a happy, easy-going girl – happy-go-lucky, went to school, got summer jobs and she was never any hassle to me or her Dad – she was a good kid.

“As James would say, a cool kid. Aoife came on holidays with us every year – she would say ‘no, no’ because she was too cool but she loved every minute of it. From our experience, this should not happen to another child. Aoife is gone now so all the apologies and everything that they put in place is… the rest of our lives, it is not going to change that. It breaks out hearts – it was a horrible death. She suffered the whole night,” she added.

On December 17, 2022, Aoife was placed in a wheelchair and put in what her family described as a storeroom by the emergency department. There were no trolleys available so James and Carol pushed two chairs together to offer her a make-shift bed.

Aoife was in such agony that even other patients on trolleys pleaded with doctors and nurses to help the teen. Despite having a GP letter advising suspected sepsis, Aoife was not assessed by a doctor for over 12 hours.

Carol said she welcomed the verdict from the coroner and his recommendations about UHL. “We welcome the verdict and the apology but that is not going to change anything. Aoife is gone now. That is what we have to live with. I don’t know what else to say.”

James said they went to UHL desperately looking for help for Aoife but did not receive it in time.

Her parents stayed with her at UHL and pleaded in vain for Aoife to be seen earlier than she was. “We went to the hospital to get help but we didn’t receive it. That is it, really? It is clear as day what happened,” James said.

Carol said she hoped that the promised investments and improvements at UHL are delivered as quickly as possible. “I hope there are improvements. I can’t say any more about that,” she said.

James stressed that the people of the Mid-West now needed action, not words, about healthcare improvements. “Let’s hope that is it not all talk. They need to get on with it and sort it out. No more people should die in that hospital. For 100 percent they need to sort it out,” he said.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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