The family of a woman who died at a train station following a long battle with mental illness has raised concerns about her discharge from a psychiatric ward a month earlier. Mum-of-one, Kate Hedges, 35, passed away in November 2020 having been released from hospital in October, an inquest into her death has been heard.
Paramedics were called to Gatley train station in Stockport following reports of a casualty on the tracks on November 27. The first day of an inquest at South Manchester Coroners’ Court heard she was diagnosed with dyspraxia as a child and autism as an adult.
She suffered significant trauma, having been bullied at school and raped when she was 19, the inquest heard. Ms Hedge’s mother Nuala Finegan described her daughter de ella as a ‘beautiful and bright person’.
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Ms Hedges was diagnosed with depression and PTSD, before she gained a qualification in beauty therapy. She also set-up a successful cleaning business.
In 2018, she completed a degree in creative writing. In August 2019, Ms Hedges became unwell, telling her mum she couldn’t cope’.
In the months that followed, she told her GP she had had suicidal thoughts, but never planned on acting on them. Her young son de ella was a significant factor in her determination to keep going, the inquest was told.
Ms Hedges, the court heard, was prescribed an anti-depressant. On August 25, 2020 Ms Finegan and other family members started receiving ‘worrying messages’. It became clear, the court heard, Ms Hedges had not slept for ‘several days’.
Her sister Maya told the court her sibling’s behavior was ‘manic’. “I had never seen her like this,” she said, giving evidence.
She took her sister to A&E at Manchester Royal Infirmary. Ms Hedges was sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
Her sister said a few hours later, she could not find her and was later told she had been taken to the Medlock ward at Trafford General Hospital. “She had no family support by her side of her,” Ms Hedges told the court.
Dr Emily Melling – who worked on the psychiatric ward – said Ms Hedges displayed ‘bizarre’ behavior and had a manic episode, which had never happened to her before. Ms Hedges claimed she had been assaulted by staff on the ward, the court heard.
Those claims were denied by nurses, who said they had to restrain her at times. The court heard that on September 9, she was transferred to the Bronte Ward at Wythenshawe Hospital-run by Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust-to be closer to her family.
The inquest heard her loved ones were not sure how medics planned to treat her. Her sister de ella described some of her visits de ella as ‘distressing’.
On one occasion, sister Maya said she was mistaken for a patient and stopped from leaving. The family also raised concerns about Kate being able to leave, the court heard.
Ms Finegan said that on October 4, her daughter left the ward ‘without telling anyone’ and tried to travel to see her sister. She tried to get a tram to Didsbury, but ended up in Manchester, where her sibling picked her up. Her ‘manic’ behavior continued, her sister told the court, and she tried to jump out of the car.
During her time in hospital, Ms Hedges was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which she ‘did not accept’. She was discharged on October 28.
Maya said: “This came as a total shock to us and we were given no information about her care coming out of hospital. There was no communication or anywhere we could raise our concerns. We still couldn’t cope with her behavior at this time .”
Ms Hedges moved to Wythenshawe, something she was ‘very excited about’, her mum said. Soon after – stuck in the house due to Covid – she became ‘very withdrawn’.
During a video call a few weeks later, Ms Finegan said her daughter ‘looked very lost’. Her sister de ella said her sibling de ella ‘didn’t know who she was anymore’.
On November 27, Ms Finegan messaged her daughter to make sure she would be in for a delivery. Her loved ones lost contact after that.
At around 1.45pm, British Transport Police officers and paramedics were called to Gatley train station following a report of a casualty on the tracks.
Ms Hedges’ mum and sister raised concerns at the outset of the four-day inquest – around her care while in hospital and the decision to discharge her.
Her mother told the court: “The hospital was not proactive in engaging us. We had to just chase the ward for any information. It felt that we had to remind the doctors that Kate had a family that wanted to be part of the solution. We were not fully involved in any of her reviews.”
Dr Muhammad Imran – consultant psychiatrist at Wythenshawe Hospital – said Ms Hedges was put on an anti-psychotic drug, but that she continued to deteriorate during the early days of her stay. He said she ‘lacked insight’ into her difficulties in early September and did not think she was unwell.
Ms Hedges did not improve the following week, so was put on another anti-psychotic drug, which she ‘reacted better to’, the doctor said. After that, she was told of her bipolar diagnosis, but she ‘ignored this’, Dr Imran said.
In early November, Ms Hedges started to ‘gain insight’ into her mental ill-health, which was a positive sign, Dr Imran said. By October 20, Dr Imram said he did not feel Ms Hedges was not ready to be discharged, despite her making improvements.
That was the last day Dr Imran saw Ms Hedges before he went on annual leave, the court heard. It was raised that Ms Hedges had allegedly been inappropriately touched by another patient, which was reported to police, the court heard.
Concerns were raised by her loved ones, who claimed she did not receive extra support, despite her history of suffering sexual abuse.
The family’s representative Matthew Baron raised concerns with Dr Imran, including their assertion they should have had input before she was discharged. Dr Imran said he was surprised to find out Ms Hedges had been discharged when he returned to work, but said he believed his colleagues would have put ‘much thought’ into the decision.
“When people are getting better, home is the best place for them to be treated,” Dr Imran said.
Ms Hedge’s mother, paying tribute to her daughter at the inquest, said: “Even when she was unwell, she was very much Kate. She had an infectious laugh and her death had been devastating for us.”
The quest continues.
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