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The Blackpool Gazette
Nov 8 2010
by Emma Greenhalgh
Mental patient overdosed on anti-depressants after leaving a Teesside hospital grounds during a cigarette break.
As tragic Jackie Smelt lay dying at a bus stop, a man watched but did nothing to help, Teesside Coroner’s Court heard.
The 44-year-old mum, who lived in flats off Allison Street, Stockton, was discovered “lifeless” by ambulance crews, and surrounded by her medication at the stop in Norton.
Jackie, who the inquest heard had a history of depressive illness, overdosed after leaving the mental health ward less than three miles away at the University Hospital of North Tees.
Staff launched a search and when a nurse rang her mobile, Jackie answered and admitted what she’d done and where she was. Jackie also spoke to her concerned niece, Amanda Ransom, telling her she had gone back to her flat because she needed “time on her own”, but was on her way back to the hospital and was fine.
Emergency crews rushed to her aid but, despite desperate attempts to revive her, she died two days later at the Stockton hospital. A previous hearing was told the cause of death was multiple organ failure as a result of overdose.
Heartbroken Jackie had voluntarily admitted herself to the mental health ward, the former Cook Centre, five weeks earlier – on the day of her mother’s funeral – but had not been sectioned and had the right to leave.
Jackie’s 21-year-old son Jamie suffers from cerebral palsy and is severely disabled.
Jackie’s brother Billy, 45, from Hartlepool, said: “We are all distraught about her death. She was a lovely sister. Jamie is being looked after in a home now.”
The inquest heard from former ambulance paramedic Mark Lakinski, who said he was initially directed to a stop on Norton Road at Bowron Street, just after 7pm on October 4, 2008, but Jackie was not there.
With blue lights flashing, the crew searched all nearby stops and within seven minutes they had found Jackie at a bus stop in High Street, Norton.
Mr Lakinski said: “She was inside in darkness and there was a man just sitting there. We had been up and down with blue lights and he just was sat there, despite the fact Jackie was on the floor. The man did not acknowledge our presence.”
Mr Lakinski said Jackie was “lifeless”, unconscious, breathing faintly and had no pulse, although there was initially some activity her heart which later stopped.
Jackie had also inhaled her own vomit.
After half an hour, attempts at resuscitation proved “futile” and Jackie was rushed to hospital. The inquest heard further attempts were made at the hospital to revive Jackie, who was originally from Hartlepool but had also lived in Billingham.
Baxi Sinha, consultant psychologist for Tees Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, told the inquest Jackie had a history of overdoses and self harm and had benefited from a community mental health team. She had previously spent three months on the mental health ward at North Tees in the mid-1990s.
After her mum, Vera Easby, 63, lost her battle with cancer, in mid-August 2008, Jackie was voluntarily admitted.
Billy added: “Jackie and my mum were so close. They lived in the same block of flats and did everything together.
“The cancer was all very sudden. She found out about it in March and died in August. It was all very hard for her to come to terms with.”
Mr Sinha said Jackie, who had bipolar disorder, underwent regular risk assessments and her anti-depressant medication was increased. She had been enjoying some “therapeutic” unescorted breaks in the grounds, when assessed safe to do so.
Deputy Coroner Tony Eastwood concluded: “I’m satisfied on the evidence that this was a deliberate act by Ms Smelt, but that this was a situation of misadventure.”
Misadventure is defined as a deliberate act which brings about an unintended outcome.
Afterwards, Billy said: “We all knew she did not want to kill herself. It was just a cry out for help which tragically went wrong.”
Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust said: “This is a very sad case and we would like to extend our sincerest sympathy to Ms Smelt’s family.”