'Gentle giant' driven propped up on van's floor with serious head injury, inquest hears
Josh Mellor, local democracy reporter
- Credit: Steve Poston
A “gentle giant” bicycle courier was transported between hospitals propped up on the floor of a van after suffering a serious head injury, an inquest has heard.
Robert Walaszkowski, from Waltham Forest, died in November 2019 of complications from an injury he sustained a month earlier by running into a door at mental health facility Goodmayes Hospital.
He was taken by ambulance to Queen’s Hospital in Romford, but discharged the following evening and sent back to Goodmayes in a van.
On the first day of a seven-day inquest, which began on Monday, his grieving sister questioned why he was discharged and why he was not sent back in an ambulance.
In a written statement, his friend Natasha described how staff at Queen’s “put him in a wheelchair and tied him around the chest with a blanket to keep him in, as he was falling out”.
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She said: “The transport was a people carrier with a caged area in the back. They put him on the floor with his head against the seat, his head was hanging forward.
“I asked the driver: ‘Shouldn’t he be in the ambulance?’
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"He replied: ‘I didn’t book the van.' As it drove off I heard [Robert] crying out and wailing ‘no’.”
The court also heard from Goodmayes Hospital nurse, Rayman Avorgbedor, who cared for Robert while waiting for the ambulance and remembered he was “conscious and talking” when he left the ward.
He said: “He looked at me, I was right beside him, and he said: ‘Thank you for saving my life.'”
Rayman said he had to provide further emergency treatment when Robert arrived back at Goodmayes, having lost consciousness on the way over.
At Queen’s Hospital, Robert was under the care of Dr Joe McCarthy, who told the inquest that a patient like Robert would normally have been seen by a junior doctor on arrival, but there had been none available.
He said he had not been able to conduct a mental health examination as it had been his last day working on the ward and he was handing over.
A post-mortem found Robert died from bronchopneumonia, hypoxic brain injury and spine injuries on November 15, 2019.
His sister Dorota, in a written statement, said Robert, who had suffered from paranoid schizophrenia since he was a teenager, was “a gentle giant who was big and kind”.
The inquest is scheduled to continue until September 22.