A nurse broke down in tears as she described the moment she poured Flash cleaning liquid from water jug into a beaker which was then drunk by an elderly patient who later died.
An inquest heard Joan Blaber, 85, was left ‘frothing at the mouth and fighting for her breath’ after the staff nurse handed her the beaker to take her night-time medication.
Mrs Blaber died in September last year, six days after drinking the Flash liquid at the Royal Sussex County Hospital.
Joan Blaber, 85, from Lewes, East Sussex, died in September last year six days after drinking Flash at the Royal Sussex County Hospital
The inquest in Brighton is attempting to establish how the cleaning fluid came to be in her green water jug.
Staff nurse Alba Duran, who was on duty that night, broke down in tears as she told of the shocking moment she accidentally poured the liquid into a beaker and handed it to her patient.
She said she had prepared the patients’ nighttime medication and was delivering the tablets around the ward, but had left Mrs Blaber until last as she was asleep and the nurse didn’t want to disturb her.
Staff nurse Alba Duran wept at the inquest yesterday as she told how she accidentally gave Mrs Blaber the liquid
Nurse Duran said she walked over and woke the retired shopkeeper and told her she would have to take her tablets.
Although it was night-time and the lighting on the ward was dim she said there was enough light to see what she was doing.
She said: ‘There was a little bottle in summer fruits squash and little beaker on the table so I put in some squash. I only put in a little bit of the water in the green jug.’
Nurse Duran said Mrs Blaber was awake enough to take the pills and she took them and lay back down.
She said: ‘Nothing seemed to be wrong, nothing seemed to be out of normal. I think she was quite tired. I didn’t smell anything.’
But 15 minutes later, Mrs Blaber was seen coughing and another nurse went to give her some water but when they poured the liquid into the beaker they spotted that it was yellow.
Nurse Duran said: ‘I went to Joan. I wanted to see what had happened. I took the jug. I had to see myself that wasn’t water. I went to the cleaning cupboard and I wanted to see what was inside the jug.’
The retired shopkeeper drank the ‘noxious’ cleaning liquid from a bedside jug normally used for water at the hospital (pictured)
She said she poured it into a clear pot and saw that the liquid was yellow and smelled of lemons.
She said: ‘I put some of the liquid on my gloves and smelled it and then I rubbed my hands and there were bubbles.’
Nurse Duran then went searching to try to identify what Mrs Blaber had drunk and found a five-litre bottle of Flash on a trolley in a cupboard.
The hospital then called the National Poisons Unit to see what medical treatment should be administered to someone who had drunk it.
Mrs Blaber was later transferred to the High Dependency Unit (HDU) but died six days later due to respiratory failure caused by pneumonia brought on by drinking the Flash liquid.
Mrs Blaber’s son, Gary, has been attending the inquests, which are being heard by Coronor Miss Veronica Hamilton-Deeley
At the end of giving her evidence, a weeping Nurse Duran took the hand of Mrs Blaber’s sister Rosemary and her son Gary before being helped from the inquest court by colleagues.
The inquest had earlier heard a store cupboard containing Flash liquid was left unlocked just metres from Mrs Blaber’s bed.
Olga Thomasa, a housekeeper, said a store cupboard containing Flash liquid which was normally locked at all times was left open and on the latch on the day of the incident.
Miss Thomasa, who has worked at the hospital for four years, said: ‘I did think that because it was a weekend and no-one had the code that some staff member might have left it open.’
The inquest continues.