Grieving mum’s plea: Just tell us what happened to Brian
Search for answers over 15-year-old son’s death after collapse at Holloway leisure centre
12 October, 2018 — By Emily Finch
St Aloysius’ pupil Brian Mpunga lost consciousness for two to three minutes
A TRIBUNE investigation has found that a 15-year-old boy, who later died, was not taken to hospital by ambulance despite convulsing on the floor for three minutes at a council-owned leisure centre.
Parents of Brian Mpunga, a star pupil at St Aloysius’ RC College in Archway, have desperately tried to find out what happened to their son at the Sobell Centre, in Holloway, but have faced a brick wall from the council and centre managers Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL).
Brian collapsed while doing exercises at a coach-led session at the indoor basketball court at the centre in Hornsey Road on December 10 last year.
His father was called to collect him, but Brian died 11 days later at Great Ormond Street Hospital after suffering a large aneurysm resulting in a brain bleed.
He had initially been treated at University College London Hospital, where he was taken by his father. Medical records held there – obtained by his family and the Tribune – reveal he lost consciousness for two to three minutes on the court.
The notes, written by the UCLH doctor who spoke to Brian’s coach by phone, describe the teenager’s “arms and legs shaking” after he fell to one side at the court. They say it “took him a while to ‘come back’” and that he was made to wait 30 minutes before his father arrived. By then he was conscious but suffering from a “terrible” headache while he also had trouble talking, staying awake and walking, according to his family.
GLL has said this week that it believes “staff response was prompt and appropriate”, but would not confirm or deny if an ambulance was called by the centre.
Other teenagers who were with Brian at the time of his collapse confirm he was unconscious on the floor.
Parents Carlotta and Jeff with a photograph of son Brian
One 16-year-old boy told the Tribune: “He collapsed onto the floor and had some sort of seizure. He was unconscious and then woke up. He was shaking for around two minutes.”
The teenager described how coaches tried to talk to Brian while two staff members from the centre “tried to help”. It is not known if the coaches were full-time GLL employees or freelancers.
“Everyone continued playing [basketball] after Brian left. We thought he was going to be okay. He posted later on SnapChat that his head hurt but he didn’t really reply after that,” he said.
Brian’s mother, Carlotta Jose, of Highbury Quadrant, has demanded to know what safeguarding measures were in place on the day Brian collapsed and whether more could have been done to prevent his death.
She said: “No one from GLL has called us or written to us to explain. They are treating us like we are just a joke. Look what happened to us. Tomorrow, it can happen to another child.
“We just want them to explain to us exactly what happened. We want to see the report into what happened on the day Brian collapsed.”
Brian suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage, a type of stroke, which is rare in children and can be fatal, but has a better outcome if diagnosed quickly through a CT scan.
His family believe he may have received a CT scan earlier if he had arrived at the hospital by ambulance and not as a walk-in patient.
His medical notes show Brian had to wait around six hours before he was given a CT scan, where a bleed was detected and an urgent referral to a neurosurgical ward was made.
As previously reported in the Tribune, GLL promised an “internal report” into Brian’s death two months ago but has yet to contact Ms Jose. A representative of GLL would not confirm this week if Brian’s family would be given access to the report.
A GLL spokesman said: “Brian’s death was tragic and we again extend our deepest sympathies to his family through this very difficult time. Having made a thorough review of the circumstances – including taking statements from those present – we believe the staff response was prompt and appropriate.”
Islington Council’s executive member for health and wellbeing Councillor Janet Burgess said: “The death of Brian Mpunga was a tragedy, and our heartfelt thoughts are with his family and friends.
“We are meeting with GLL to discuss further the circumstances of this tragic incident.”