Heroin-collapse woman needed years of care

A mother-to-be was not a regular drug user before she slipped into a heroin-induced coma and spent eight years needing round-the-clock care, an inquest heard.

Amy Pickard was 17 and seven months pregnant when she was found collapsed in a toilet cubicle in Hastings, East Sussex, with her boyfriend Michael Morfee in 2001.

An inquest heard she was starved of oxygen for around 15 minutes, leading to her suffering from profound brain damage from which she never fully recovered.

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Amy’s mother, Thelma Pickard, told the hearing that she knew nothing about her daughter’s drug use, saying she would have known if there was a problem because they were so close.

Six months before her death, Amy moved out to live with Mr Morfee, 22, who died from a heroin overdose in the same public toilet block months after the pair were found collapsed.

Hospital staff delivered Amy’s girl by Caesarean section but the baby died days later and Amy was left in a persistent vegetative state.

At yesterday’s inquest in Hastings, Ms Pickard, a former auxiliary nurse who lives in Icklesham, near Rye, raised her concerns about the standard of care given to her daughter at Mary House care home in Hastings, where she died aged 25 on October 10 2009.

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She moved there days earlier after spending seven years at the Raphael Medical Centre in Tonbridge, Kent, where she responded well to therapies.

Ms Pickard said checks, including oxygen levels, were not carried out properly at Mary House and her positioning in bed on the day of her death was “odd”.

Speaking about her belief on how Amy died, she said: “I can’t say I know because I wasn’t there but I surmise that she had rolled over and her airway was blocked.”

Recording a verdict, coroner Alan Craze said Amy died as a result of “non-dependent use of drugs”. He rejected the possibility that she might have died from accidental asphyxia and said her death was the result of a cardiac arrhythmia due to cardiac arrest, causing profound brain damage due to a heroin overdose.

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