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Woman dies after suffering brain injury from drinking too much water

Woman dies after suffering brain injury from drinking too much water

An NHS trust has apologised to her family

The family of a woman who died after drinking too much water have received an apology from an NHS trust after an inquest concluded that failings contributed to her death.

45-year-old Michelle Whitehead had been admitted to Millbrook Mental Health Unit in Sutton-in-Ashfield in 2021 after suffering a breakdown.

The mum of two then started drinking water excessively and went into a coma and an inquest heard that Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust committed a number of failings.

According to the inquest there was 'inadequate monitoring of Michelle' and one of the reasons given for this was 'staff were distracted by the use of their personal mobile telephones' which are not allowed on the ward.

A jury at the inquest concluded that some of the failings had 'probably more than minimally' contributed to Michelle's death.

The Whitehead family, parents Michelle and Michael with their two sons.
Family Handout

The inquest found that on 5 May, 2021, Michelle was 'excessively consuming water from the tap in her en-suite bathroom' but they don't know how much she drank as she was not continuously supervised.

At 5:30pm on that same day a sedative she was given took effect and she got into bed, for the next three hours staff assumed she was sleeping.

From there the inquest report says there was 'inadequate monitoring' and 'a failure of nursing staff to respond promptly to a change in Michelle's breathing'.

It concludes that the mother of two most likely died on 7 May, 2021 at King's Mill Hospital from 'a fatal brain injury caused by acute over-hydration of water leading to severely low sodium levels'.

The inquest says that Michelle's excessive drinking of water was caused by an undiagnosed case of Psychogenic Polydipsia, where a symptom is excessive water intake.

An inquest found that there were multiple failings made in Michelle's death.
Family Handout

According to the BBC, Michelle's family have paid tribute to her memory and her husband Michael Whitehead said that staff should have seen that something was wrong.

He said: "When Michelle [seemingly] fell asleep, staff should have realised something was very wrong.

"Had they acted earlier Michelle would have been taken to ICU and put on a drip. That would have saved her life.

"By the time they realised what was happening, the same course of action was far too late."

Michael said his wife was 'warm, caring and easy to love', as well as being an 'amazing person' and that 'the last few days of her life do not represent who she was'.

They were together for 30 years and married for 22 of those after meeting on a bus where she took a liking to some of the records he'd just bought.

Michelle Whitehead had been a nursery nurse before spending 19 years of her life being a full time carer when one of the couple's sons was born with Down's syndrome.

The mother of two had been admitted to Millbrook Mental Health Unit in 2021.

Ifti Majid, chief executive of Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, gave the BBC a statement apologising to Michelle Whitehead's family.

He said: "On behalf of the trust, I once again extend our sincerest condolences and apologies to the family and friends of Michelle Whitehead for their loss.

"We are considering the findings of the jury and the coroner.

"We acknowledge that there were aspects of care which were not of the quality they should have been and will address the concerns raised so that the experience for patients now and in future is improved."

Featured Image Credit: Family handout

Topics: UK News, Health, NHS