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The Dublin District Coroner's Court (file photo) ©

Dublin mother of six (36) died suddenly from toxic shock syndrome linked to a tampon

The Coroner’s Court heard that doctors were initially perplexed as to why a seemingly healthy young woman had suffered a cardiac arrest.

A YOUNG DUBLIN mother with no history of any health condition died from toxic shock syndrome linked to a tampon in her body, an inquest has heard.

Samantha Comiskey (36), a mother of six young children from Maple Avenue, Ballybrack, Co Dublin, collapsed at her home on the evening of St Patrick’s Day last year after complaining of feeling unwell.

Ms Comiskey was rushed by ambulance to St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin but was pronounced dead at 2.20am the following morning after attempts to resuscitate her proved unsuccessful.

A sitting of Dublin District Coroner’s Court on Monday heard that doctors at the hospital were initially perplexed as to why a seemingly healthy young woman had suffered a cardiac arrest and failed to respond to treatment.

Ms Comiskey’s partner, Joey Burnett, told the inquest they had attended a St Patrick’s Day parade and had been enjoying a normal day with their family.

“There was nothing out of order,” said Mr Burnett.

He told the coroner, Clare Keane, that his partner had no complaints on the day and had no history of any health problems.

However, Mr Burnett said she told him at around 10.30pm that night that she did not feel well as she was experiencing a “hot flush”.

He recalled that Ms Comiskey had felt a bit better after going out into the garden and drinking some water.

Mr Burnett said she then went to lie down in her bed as she felt unwell again. The inquest heard she was sweating and had vomited three times.

Mr Burnett said his partner suffered a seizure lasting about 10 minutes shortly after going to her room.

He described how he called an ambulance and attempted CPR on her before paramedics took over the situation when they arrived at the house about 20 minutes later.

Mr Burnett said Ms Comiskey was continuing to breathe but was otherwise unresponsive. He told the coroner that medical staff at St Vincent’s did not know at the time what was wrong with her.

A report from paramedics recorded that Ms Comiskey had suffered a cardiac arrest and an abnormal heart rhythm was detected for which she was given appropriate medication.

It also stated that it had been difficult to insert an advanced airway in her body.

Tampon discovered 

A consultant in emergency medicine at the hospital, Carthage Carroll, said Ms Comiskey had arrived at St Vincent’s at 1.43am on 18 March 2023 around two hours after suffering a cardiac arrest.

Dr Carroll noted that she had suffered a seizure and had been noticed to have erratic breathing and rolling eyes.

The consultant observed that Ms Comiskey had received 10 shocks to the heart as part of efforts to resuscitate her and spontaneous circulation was restored by paramedics at 12.30am.

Doctor also recorded that she had a distended lower abdomen at the time.

In the hospital, however, Ms Comiskey’s heartbeat stopped again and she could no longer breathe without assistance.

Dr Keane said a reading of the patient’s blood-gas levels also showed there was “a major problem”.

The inquest heard that medical staff were puzzled by Ms Comiskey’s condition as it was unexpected in a young woman and she was not responding to treatment.

The coroner noted that doctors were working on the basis that she was possibly suffering from a major clot on her lung and gave her appropriate treatment.

Dr Keane remarked that such a working diagnosis was “not unreasonable”.

An ultrasound scan on her stomach was also clear.

However, Dr Keane said a “very foul smelling” tampon was discovered in her body when medics were trying to insert a urinary catheter.

The coroner said this alerted doctors to the possibility that Ms Comiskey was suffering from toxic shock syndrome caused by the tampon being in place for some period of time.

The inquest heard that further tests carried out following her death confirmed the presence of bacteria in her blood.

Dr Keane said the ability of tampons to cause toxic shock syndrome was “a known phenomenon that is more rare than common”.

She observed that Ms Comiskey may have left the tampon inside her “longer than expected” which resulted in bacteria producing toxins which infected her whole body.

It is generally advised that tampons should be removed within four to six hours, and after eight hours at a maximum.

A postmortem also found evidence of bacteria in the deceased’s body which had resulted in septicaemia or blood poisoning.

Dr Keane said the pathologist, Dr Seth Horsu, had found a complete blockage of one of Ms Comiskey’s coronary arteries which would have been triggered by the bacterial infection.

The coroner said the postmortem had also found some evidence of coronary disease with some scarring of the deceased’s heart.

However, it found no evidence that she had suffered a heart attack.

Recording a narrative verdict, Dr Keane said the “overwhelming infection” experienced by Ms Comiskey was most likely caused by the tampon which resulted in a “sudden onset of symptoms”.

She recorded signs of heart disease in the deceased as a contributory factor in her death.

Offering sympathy to Mr Burnett, who wiped tears from his eyes, and other members of Ms Comiskey’s family, Dr Keane said Ms Comiskey had died from “an unusual phenomenon”.

“It was completely out of the blue. It was a completely shocking event for the family,” she added.

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Seán McCárthaigh