Covid-19 inquiry: Coleraine student says her mum Alison McKinney was allowed to die at Causeway Hospital 'because she was fat'

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A Coleraine social sciences student has said her mother would still be alive today if she hadn’t beendiscriminated against because of her size.

Mother-of-two Alison McKinney, from Coleraine, died from Covid-19 at Causeway Hospital on August 17, 2021, aged 56.

Her daughter Lizzie Lyle (38) said her final memory of her mother, an assistant systems analyst for the Northern Trust, will haunt her forever.

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"The last image I have of mummy totally breaks my heart,” she said. “She was in a side room within the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) suite. I wasn’t allowed in. I could only look at her through a tiny window and talk to her through an intercom.

Coleraine student Lizzie Lyle says her mum Alison McKinney was allowed to die from Covid-19 because 'she was fat'. Picture: family imageColeraine student Lizzie Lyle says her mum Alison McKinney was allowed to die from Covid-19 because 'she was fat'. Picture: family image
Coleraine student Lizzie Lyle says her mum Alison McKinney was allowed to die from Covid-19 because 'she was fat'. Picture: family image

"She was lying there, absolutely spaced out. It was as if she was there, but she wasn’t.”

Mrs McKinney, a type 1 diabetic, was admitted to hospital on August 6 with breathing difficulties.

Lizzie, who was her mum’s primary carer, said she first became concerned about “a lack of care” when she learned that her mother’s medication had been altered shorty after she was admitted.

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"Mummy’s diabetes was not being treated correctly; had it been, she might have had a chance,” she said.

"I called the hospital when her insulin was halved but it didn’t make any difference. Her condition deteriorated but I was told she wouldn’t be going on a ventilator because of her size.

"Mum was a bigger lady. She was overweight.

"Basically, they said that because mum was so fat they wouldn’t get a tube down.”

As Mrs McKinney’s health got worse, Lizzie said she was shocked and horrified to hear that a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ (DNR) order had been put in place.

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"I was told they’d talked to mum, who said she believed it would be for the best,” she said.

"I don’t believe that. It wasn’t something that my mum would ever consider.”

She added; “They said that when mum was ready, they would give her medicine and she’d slip off, it would be just as if she was sleeping.”

Lizzie said her mum’s final moments are seared in her heart.

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"I was standing outside the room in full PPE, looking in,” she said. “Mum pointed at me and then pointed at her heart. Then she did the same thing to my husband Timmy, who was with me.

"I just said, ‘I love you mummy’ and I watched as the tears spilled out of her eyes and down her cheeks.

"I told her I’d be ok and Timmy reassured her that he’d look after me and my younger brother Shea.”

Tragically, not long after Lizzie left the hospital, she took the hardest call of all.

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"A nurse told me mummy had passed on,” she said. “I was heartbroken, My mum didn’t deserve to die. She loved life; she was full of life.

"The hardest part of it all is that I believe she wouldn’t have died if she hadn’t been discriminated against.”

For Lizzie, it is imperative that the inquiry, now sitting in Belfast, unearths the truth.

"We need to know who was making the decisions because those decisions had massive consequences,” she said.

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"People should be holding their hands up and admitting what they did.

"I would love an apology. I know we’re not going to get one but it might dull some of the hurt if someone took responsibility and said sorry for everything that happened.”

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