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'Rare condition caused difficulty in diagnosis'

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: February 20, 2013

By gill roberts

Sarah Thomas

Sarah Thomas

AN inquest into the death of a Neath dental nurse has heard about the difficulty of diagnosing a "rare" condition she is thought to have suffered in the hours before she died.

Sarah Thomas, 30, — who battled with the after-effects of a brain tumour which left her without two-thirds of her vision — died on May 5, 2007.

Paramedics had attended her Tonna home hours before her death but she was not taken to hospital.

The hearing previously heard that a pathologist gave the medical cause of death as 1a circulatory collapse due to 1b Addison's disease.

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But the coroner Philip Rogers said the pathologist said "if the evidence supported it he would defer to adrenal failure".

On day five of the hearing evidence was heard from Chris Moore from the Wales Ambulance Service, who carried out internal inquiries following Miss Thomas' death.

Mr Moore said the "Addisonian crisis" which Miss Thomas is believed to have experienced was a "rare condition".

After questioning about how much paramedics would have known about this condition, he said: "I would suggest even now there is a lack of knowledge about Addisonian crisis and steroid dependency."

Victoria Hillier, representing two paramedics, David Glover and Michael Davies — who attended the home at 1am after Miss Thomas called 999 after complaining of stomach pains and breathing problems — also asked Mr Moore questions.

She asked would it be "reasonable" to attribute pain and being sweaty to gastroenteritis if they had already been seen by a GP.

Mr Moore said: "I can see how that finding could be considered."

In her submissions to the coroner, Claire Price, who is representing the family, said the role of the ambulance crew is to recognise the signs and symptoms, to make an appropriate assessment, to ask for follow up information and to act on findings.

"My submission is there was a failure to do that in this case," she said.

Miss Hillier in her submissions said the crew had no training or knowledge of an Addisonian crisis and of adrenal insufficiency and the paramedics had advised for Miss Thomas to go to hospital.

Mr Rogers was due to deliver his verdict today.

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