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Sunday, 21 December 2014

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Barrow teenager's death caused by 'rare condition'

A BARROW teenager with epilepsy died suddenly from a rare condition that doctors still don’t understand, an inquest heard.

Thomas Opie, aged 18, suffered a fatal fit at his home in Westway, Barrow, on June 10.

The popular George Hastell School pupil is believed to have died from “sudden unexpected death in epilepsy” (SYDEP), which happens to one in every 1,000 people with epilepsy.

Doctors do not know what causes the syndrome but it is thought seizures may cause a person’s heart to stop beating or them to stop breathing.

A post mortem examination by pathologist Dr Nicholas Mapstone, from the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, found no obvious cause of death.

Dr Mapstone told the inquest at Barrow Town Hall on Thursday: “I know Mr Opie had a fit before he died and it may well be that the cause of death was sudden unexpected death in epilepsy.

“As is often the case when people with epilepsy die, we don’t actually find very much. (Mr Opie’s) heart was normal and his lungs were normal, and my examination found his brain was normal.

“It’s well known there are two ways somebody with epilepsy can die from epilepsy. The first way is they have a fit and don’t stop fitting, and that’s dangerous as they can’t breathe properly.

“The other reason we still don’t understand. Sometimes people with epilepsy can die suddenly with no apparent reason. It looks as if this happened in this case.”

Kevin Opie, told the inquest his son suffered a fit at home on the day of his death, but had always taken his medication.

He said: “His fits would vary sometimes. He could go a couple of weeks without having one and then have three or four in a day.”

Coroner for South Cumbria, Ian Smith, recorded a verdict of death by natural causes.

He said: “We can’t give 100 per cent scientific proof but the best explanation we can give is that Mr Opie died from sudden death in epilepsy.

“Sadly, medical science still doesn’t understand what happens in cases like this.”

Mr Opie told the Evening Mail in June that his son was a “fantastic person” and the “life and soul of the party”.

Thomas’s mother, Lisa, said: “Our lives are never going to be the same again.”

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