Binge drink teen left hospital to visit pub

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The Independent Online

A critically ill teenager being treated for liver failure after binge drinking left his hospital bed and went to the pub opposite for a drink, it was revealed today.

While the father of 19-year-old Garath Anderson fights to overturn NHS guidelines which mean his son has to be alcohol free for six months before getting a liver transplant, a publican confirmed he went to her pub last Wednesday looking for a pint.

He was still in his slippers and with the needle from a drip in his hand.

Staff in the Old Moat Inn opposite the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald on the eastern outskirts of Belfast refused his order, gave him a coke, alerted the hospital and took him back.

The teenager from Newtownards, Co Down was transferred to Kings College Hospital in London on Friday and doctors have told his father, Brian, he could have as little as two weeks to live.

An exasperated Mr Anderson said: "I don't know what he was thinking about, I don't think he knows.

"He said 'I don't know why I did it, I just walked out and walked across to the pub'."

He said his son first told him he had a coke, but when pressed admitted trying to order alcohol first.

"I said 'What were you thinking about son' and he said ' I don't know, I just don't know'."

Mr Anderson said he was trying to get his son psychiatric help.

"I don't know what is going on in his head, he needs mental help as well."

Old Moat Inn manager Lorraine McMillan said : "He walked into the bar on Wednesday and the staff immediately recognised he was from the hospital - he had a needle in his hand, was wearing slippers and was still wearing his hospital name band.

"He was very young and didn't look very well. He asked for a pint or possibly a vodka. He was refused a drink and he said that was OK he would take a coke.

"I contacted the hospital and one of the staff walked him over and he was met at the door."

She said patients sometimes came in and the pub had a policy of never giving them alcohol in case it interfered with their treatment.

The incident last week came before Mr Anderson finally told his son that he could be dead in a couple of weeks unless he got a liver transplant. He has since sworn never to drink again.

Garath suffered acute liver failure earlier this month after drinking 30 cans of lager on a weekend binge-drinking session and had to be rushed to hospital.

Although it is common medical practice in the UK to insist that liver patients whose conditions are linked to alcohol abuse go without a drink for six months before going on the transplant waiting list, it is only a guideline and not a formal rule.

Mr Anderson insists the policy should apply to older patients with chronic alcoholism, not a teenager who has never before needed medical treatment for a drink related illness.

He plans legal action to get the rule overturned. He was expected to launch a judicial review in the High Court in Belfast this week, but may now have to take the legal action in London following his son's transfer to King's College Hospital.

Mr Anderson, who has been at his son's bed side almost constantly since he was admitted to hospital, said he was undergoing a liver biopsy later today as doctors continue to assess his condition.