Amy Pickard inquest hears she was not a regular drug user

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THE mother of a young woman who died eight years after falling into a heroin-induced coma has spoken of her daughter’s fighting spirit.

Amy Pickard was 17, and seven months pregnant, when she was found unconscious in a town centre toilet cubicle in June 2001 with her boyfriend Michael Morfee.

Her baby Summer Louise, was delivered by emergency Caesarean, but died several days later.

Amy suffered irreversible brain damage, and after waking from a coma, remained in a persistent vegetative state until her death in October 2009, aged 25.

At the inquest on Wednesday, the pathologist stated that the exact cause of death was unknown.

Afterwards, her mother, Thelma Pickard, said: “I remember Amy, my daughter, as a lively chatterbox who adored dancing and who had lots of lovely friends, and we were very close.

“After the coma, her life would never be the same again but Amy had an incredible spirit, and she fought for almost eight years.”

Amy had been moved to Mary House nursing home, in The Ridge, 10 days before her death on October 10, 2009.

She had spent the previous seven years being cared for round the clock at the Rafael Medical Centre, in Tonbridge, where she had been making good progress, the inquest heard.

Thelma said: “She responded to me better than I had known in the last seven years.”

In the years that followed her overdose, Amy required assistance with every aspect of daily life, the inquest heard.

She had a tracheostomy fitted to aid with breathing, and a PEG device in her stomach for nutritional purposes.

In 2007, Amy took part in a trial of the drug Zolpidem, used as a treatment for insomnia, and made some visible progress, starting to breath by herself and showing signs of awareness.

Dr Ian Hawley, consultant histopathologist at the Conquest Hospital, said that the cause of Amy’s death could not be ascertained.

She had not had a heart attack, there had been no infection, and it was unlikely that the anti-epileptic drugs she had been taking contributed to her death.

When pressed by the coroner, he added that on the balance of probabilities, the cause of death was either cardiac arrhythmia or asphyxia.

Six months before her overdose, Amy and Michael had moved in together, and were making plans for the new baby.

When asked about Amy’s drug history, her mum Thelma said: “I know absolutely nothing.

“I think I would have noticed something as her mother.

“When they took her to the Conquest, the first thing the nurses said was, she was definitely not a heroin addict.”

Coroner Alan Craze ruled out epilepsy as a cause of death early in the inquest, and said that the question remained as to whether Amy had died of cardiac arrest or accidental asphyxiation.

He added that he did not believe that Amy had been a drug addict.

Mr Craze said: “I think on the balance of probability, this is a wholly natural mode of dying, without there being asphyxiation involved.”

He said her death was the result of a cardiac arrhythmia due to profound brain damage, due to a heroin overdose.

He recorded a verdict of death by non-dependent use of drugs.