A TEENAGER who died suddenly from an undiagnosed heart condition had been given the all clear by her GP just three weeks earlier.
Esme Balp, 18, of Battle Road, St Leonards, collapsed while out with friends, in Brett Drive, Bexhill, in the early hours of December 20, last year, after complaining of breathlessness.
Esme (pictured right), a keen student who had ambitions to be a doctor, had been suffering from tiredness, hair loss, and difficulty concentrating, and certain something was not right, she saw her GP on November 30.
Blood tests were carried out but the results were normal and the doctor took no further action.
Esme had earlier that year received treatment for an underactive thyroid, after experiencing similar symptoms, and had also suffered an episode of what was thought to be gastroenteritis, but had no history of heart problems.
Her mother Rosalind Balp, speaking after the inquest into Esme’s death on Wednesday (May 2), called for greater awareness of heart problems in young people, saying that she suspected her daughter’s symptoms may not have been taken as seriously as they should have been, because of her age.
Mrs Balp said: “She felt that something was not right, and we had decided to go to a specialist in January, but by then it was too late.
“Nobody made the connection that it might be a heart problem.
“I don’t know if anything could have been done, but I do think they could have looked into it more carefully.”
Describing Esme as ‘astonishing’, ‘quirky’, and ‘a delight’, Mrs Balp added: “She was very strong. She didn’t drink, she didn’t smoke, she had never tried drugs.
“She was very individual and everybody respected her for that.”
The inquest heard how Esme, an A-level student at Bexhill College, had been at a birthday party in St Peter’s Crescent, Bexhill, on December 19 when she and two friends, Matthew Broadbent and Anna Rice, decided to walk to Tesco, in Ravenside Retail Park at around 1am.
Anna, who had known Esme since school, said: “Esme was a very sensible and responsible person, I have never seen her drunk.
“Esme didn’t say anything about feeling unwell.”
It was while the three were walking that Esme began to complain that her legs felt funny, and of tightness in her chest.
On the way back to the party at around 1.30am, Esme collapsed suddenly and lost consciousness.
Her friends dialled 999 and Anna began to do chest compressions as directed by the ambulance service.
Paramedics arrived within 10 minutes, however she died at the scene.
Toxicology reports confirmed there were no drugs in her system, and a tiny amount of alcohol which may have been produced post mortem.
Pathologist Ian Hawley told the inquest that there was an abnormal area of scarring on her heart, which had lead to cardio myopathy, a weakening of the heart.
It is unclear whether the cause was genetic, or the consequence of a virus.
Coroner Alan Craze recorded a verdict of natural causes, and said: “Even if there is any doubt as to the precise cause of death, it does not alter the verdict I come to.
“This has been a huge shock to a lot of people, going way beyond the immediate family.
“It is difficult to think of anything worse for a parent.”
Mrs Balp is supportive of the work done by charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) to raise awareness of conditions that can lead to Young Sudden Cardiac Death.
She said: “GPs need to know more about the heart, they need to see the danger signs.”
Dr Steve Cox, director of screening at CRY said: “Every week in the UK, 12 apparently fit and healthy young people, under the age of 35, die from undiagnosed cardiac conditions. 80 per cent of these deaths will occur with no prior symptoms.
“One in every 300 of the young people that CRY tests will be identified with a potentially life threatening condition.”
For more information on CRY visit www.c-r-y.org.uk.