- people recommend this Recommend Deaths of two moms spark coroner’s probe
‘Need to see if there is a commonality’
Photo courtesy of Christopher Ci
Jennifer Ryan died Jan 14, 2013 after a brief illness. Shown here in 2012 with son Noah. FAMILY Courtesy of Kowch Family Ashly Coville, her seven-year-old daughter Nicole Kowch and husband Philip Kowch. Coville died of pneumonia on Dec. 26.
1 of 21 2 The coroner’s office is investigating the sudden and unexpected deaths of two young moms within three weeks of each other at Hamilton General Hospital.
Normally, the coroner’s office doesn’t investigate natural deaths. But it has an “open and ongoing investigation” into “concerns” about how 26-year-old Ashly Coville and 24-year-old Jennifer Ryan died.
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Both sought medical attention more than once for worsening flu-like symptoms days before they died.
Their deaths shocked their families and “devastated” hospital staff. Coville died Dec. 26 from what her husband was told was pneumonia. Ryan died Jan. 14 of meningitis, says her husband, Chris Cielecki.
“We need to see if there is a commonality,” said regional supervising coroner Jack Stanborough.
He said the investigation could include public health concerns, quality of care issues and whether anything could have been done to prevent the deaths of the devoted moms. Coville has a seven-year-old daughter, Nicole Kowch, and didn’t know she was six weeks pregnant. Ryan has two sons: four-year-old Nicholas and 10-month-old Noah.
“Kids shouldn’t have to lose their parents for this reason,” said Coville’s husband, Philip Kowch. “If I can prevent it from happening again by making a bit of noise, I owe it to Ashly to fight as hard as I can.”
The coroner’s investigation will consider conclusions from internal and external reviews being conducted by Hamilton Health Sciences, which runs Hamilton General Hospital executives are expected to meet early next week to determine how many outside experts they want to bring in to investigate the deaths and what they want them to review. It’s unknown how long it will take.
It’s rare for HHS to bring in outside experts to review cases. It hasn’t been done at all in at least four years.
“This is an unusual circumstance,” said Dr. Richard McLean, executive vice-president of medical affairs and quality for HHS. “It’s an issue of public confidence. We need to put people’s minds to rest and show we’re open to have external reviewers look at our work.”
He said an initial investigation, involving a review of the two women’s charts and staff interviews, has determined nothing would have been done differently to save them.
But their husbands question whether their wives would still be alive if Hamilton General’s emergency department had taken their symptoms more seriously.
“They didn’t listen,” said Kowch. “There was no compassion. They told her it was the flu and to go home and sleep it off.”
Both women were sent home after being treated in the department during the massive peak of an Influenza A outbreak.
Coville went back to Hamilton General the next day on Christmas. Ryan was rushed by ambulance to Juravinski Hospital on Jan. 11 two days after her visit.
Their husbands weren’t told their illnesses were life-threatening when they left their wives at the hospitals — one to go home and look after his daughter and the other to take a brief break. The men weren’t there when their wives suddenly lost consciousness. Ryan was transferred to Hamilton General and died without ever waking up. Coville died within 15 minutes of her husband and daughter returning. .
“It’s like closing your eyes to blink and opening them to find you’re in the middle of a desert,” said Kowch. “Ashly was my life.”
Both husbands were recently laid off, so their wives brought in the majority of the income for the family. Coville was a waitress at the Eastown Bar and Grill on Barton Street. Ryan was on maternity leave and preparing to return to work as a florist at Fortino’s House of Flowers in Fiesta Mall.
A fund for Ryan’s boys has been set up at the St. Stanislaus — St. Casimir’s Polish Parishes Credit Union Limited on Barton Street East. A fundraiser for Coville’s daughter will take place on Feb. 9, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., at the Vienna Tavern at 152 Grenfell St.