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The ‘clean-living’ half-sister of writer and commentator Toby Young died after a sudden unexplained headache but may have survived with ‘proper care’, her mother has told an inquest today.

Gaia Young, 25, was taken to hospital having fallen severely ill after going out for a bike ride and meeting friends on July 17, it was said.

She was rushed from her home in Islington, north London, to University College London Hospital (UCLH) by ambulance with acute vomiting but was declared brain dead four days later.  

Doctors said Ms Young, whose father was the late social entrepreneur and Labour peer Michael Young, was ‘confused’ and falling asleep when she was seen at University College Hospital.   

They were initially concerned that Ms Young could be intoxicated but an inquest at St Pancras Coroner’s Court on Monday was told she did not drink excessively or take recreational drugs.

Heat stroke and dehydration were also suspected but no underlying cause for the healthy 25-year-old’s rapid deterioration was found, leaving her family and friends searching for answers, the inquest heard.

Ms Young, who worked as a product specialist and artist, deteriorated so quickly she was moved onto intensive care and put on a ventilator just 16 hours after being admitted, but did not regain consciousness.

The Bristol history graduate had no underlying health conditions and her death was treated as unexplained at the time as a post-mortem was inconclusive. She also tested negative for Covid in hospital.

UCLH launched a review after her devastated family demanded answers as to how her condition deteriorated so quickly.     

Her mother Lady Dorit Young, 63, claimed at St Pancras Coroner’s Court today that her daughter was misdiagnosed, and that doctors ‘misread signs’ as her condition got worse.

Gaia Young, 25, was the daughter of late Labour peer Lord Michael Young and Toby's half-sister

Gaia Young, 25, was the daughter of late Labour peer Lord Michael Young and Toby's half-sister

Gaia Young, 25, was the daughter of late Labour peer Lord Michael Young and Toby’s half-sister

Lady Young also claimed Covid restrictions at the time meant she could not get into the hospital to tell doctors her daughter had not taken drugs, delaying the correct treatment given as it was assumed she may be having a reaction to medication or recreational substances.

A pathologist told the hearing Ms Young died due to swelling in the brain, but did not know the cause of this, despite thorough autopsy and post-mortem being carried out.  

It was found that a cerebral oedema – or swelling in the brain – caused intercranial pressure that led to tonsillar herniation – where brain tissue is pushed downward, known as ‘coning’ – that caused her death.

Experts probing Ms Young’s death said water and fluids given to her when she arrived at hospital to treat what doctors thought was dehydration could have affected her sodium levels and exacerbated her symptoms.

Although investigators said her sodium levels did not necessarily lead to the hypernatremia, it could have cause her rapid deterioration in condition, the inquest heard.

Instead of treating the hypernatremia that is extremely rare is young patients, doctors prescribed anti-viral medication as Ms Young’s symptoms were more commonly linked to an infection.

Today Lady Young told the hearing: ‘She was misdiagnosed, signs were misread.’

In a statement written by Lady Young and read out by Coroner Mary Hassell, she added: ‘Gaia was a much-lived young woman who was taken to hospital and effectively died 16 hours later.

‘She was very protective of me and as her only living parent, she didn’t want to worry me [when she was in hospital]. She was my beloved child.

‘I believe with proper care she would not have died. I believe she was denied the chance to live. How can a previously healthy young woman die in hospital, but no one knows why?

‘The last time I saw my daughter alive was in the ambulance when she left our home at 10.45pm.

‘She had a severe headache and had vomited, she was very seriously ill. Her mental state was confused but she remained conscious.

‘I think Gaia would have been very scared, embarrassed and self-conscious in hospital. Gaia would not take drugs. She was into her health and professional development.’

Lady Young also complained doctors did not get in contact with her and so assumed her daughter’s symptoms were caused by drugs as she arrived late on a Saturday night.

She added: ‘I was not kept informed. If anyone had asked me I would have told them that she would not have been using recreational intoxication.

Ms Young, 25, said she had felt ill on July 21 last year and believed she had got heatstroke

Ms Young, 25, said she had felt ill on July 21 last year and believed she had got heatstroke

Ms Young, 25, said she had felt ill on July 21 last year and believed she had got heatstroke

‘I went to the hospital but Covid restrictions prevented me from passing. A call came at 12.47pm to say she had already effectively died. I was told the decision was made for not further intervention.

‘I was asked by the hospital can you tell me if Gaia was taking drugs, I was so shocked I was unable to understand anything.

‘I asked for a face-to-face meeting with the nurses who cared for her because I know if I could talk to them and find out anything about those 16 hours about how Gaia was it might give me some peace.’

Lady Young also claimed she had taken advice from a prominent German neurologist suggesting her daughter being placed in the foetal position for lumbar puncture could have put added pressure and caused the ‘coning’.  

After arriving at hospital Ms Young, an artist, told medics ‘I made a mistake’ but was unable to give a detailed account of her day in her drowsy state, it was said.

Dr Zoe Veary, who saw Ms Young after she reached A&E, said she thought the patient may be intoxicated ‘because of her age and her history of being with friends’. 

Medics later assessed the risk as less likely while they explored a range of diagnostic possibilities, the inquest heard.

Ms Young appeared ‘dehydrated and agitated’ and was seen rolling on the bed and holding her abdomen, Dr Veary said.

The doctor said in a statement: ‘When I asked if she had been drinking she said ‘not enough’.

‘She often made the comment ‘I made a mistake’.’  

Ms Young was given fluid resuscitation but her condition worsened and she eventually stopped breathing properly the following afternoon, the inquest heard.

She suffered respiratory arrest at around 3.15pm, which meant a procedure to diagnose her condition – known as a lumbar puncture – could not be completed, doctors said.

There was no ‘neurological recovery’ following the deterioration during the procedure and Ms Young later died on July 21, it was said.

Doctors believe she suffered a generalised cerebral edema – a life-threatening condition which leads to fluid developing in the brain, causing it to swell.

But the underlying cause of the cerebral edema, which medics said developed rapidly, remains unknown.

Dr Thomas Samuels, who was involved in the lumbar puncture, acknowledged that ‘communication during the course of the day would ideally have been better’ with Ms Young’s mother.

But he said he believed the right medical decisions were made in response to Ms Young’s condition based on her symptoms.

‘I recognise that communication during the course of the day would ideally have been better than it was,’ he said.

He added: ‘I wouldn’t have done anything differently.’

Dr Christian Hasford, who saw Ms Young on a ward before the procedure, said he felt the cause of Ms Young’s condition could be related to toxins or inflammation, but ‘did not feel this was intoxication by alcohol or a conventional recreational drug’.

Gaia was the half-sister of writer and commentator Toby Young and died aged just 25

Gaia was the half-sister of writer and commentator Toby Young and died aged just 25

Gaia was the half-sister of writer and commentator Toby Young and died aged just 25

Professor Michael Sheaff, a pathologist, said an autopsy showed the occurrence of a generalised cerebral edema was highly likely but added no clear medical cause of death could be found as the underlying cause of the condition had not been identified.            

The hospital admitted a CT scan of Ms Young’s head should have been carried out when she arrived to spot the hypernatremia and avoid giving her fluids for dehydration.

When a CT scan was carried out the intercranial pressure on her brain was not picked up by the first radiologist and so a second lumbar puncture was attempted after Ms Young became too distressed from a severe headache to continue.

Daniel Wallace, who carried out the investigation in to the case for UCH along with another doctor, said Ms Young’s slight frame and low body mass could have also been one of many contributing factors in her death. 

He added that there were steps the medics could have taken that might have saved Ms Young, but the investigation did not prove conclusive as it was such a rare case. 

David Brook, representing Lady Young, applied for a seven day adjournment to get experts in neurology to try and find out the underlying cause of Ms Young’s death.

But the Coroner rejected this application and instead gave a narrative conclusion, adding it was about ‘a missed chance’ by medics when Ms Young first arrived at hospital.

The cause of death was given as hypernatremia, intercranial pressure and a cerebral oedema.

Ms Hassell said although Ms Young died from swelling in the brain, it was not clear if this was caused by the low sodium levels.

She found that had the hypernatremia been spotted, Ms Young could have been treated better and may have survived.

She added: ‘I have been asked to find a conclusion of natural causes, but I don’t think that would do justice to the evidence I have heard.

‘Gaia Young died from a cerebral oedema, the cause of this remains unclear.

‘It’s possible that the cause of the cerebral oedema was hypernatremia. If the cause was hypernatremia, better management would have afforded her a better chance of survival. But I don’t have the evidence to say this definitively, I don’t think evidence of this exists.

‘A CT scan was not conducted as it should have been at admission to hospital on late July 17.

‘It’s unclear what a CT scan would show, there were signs of raised intercranial pressure but this was not noted [by the examining radiologist].

‘If the earlier CT scan had been conducted and had shown raised intercranial pressure or the later scan had been observed correctly, this would have changed the management [of her care]. Gaia Young would not have had a lumbar puncture attempted.

‘Had intercranial pressure been noted it would have resulted in the ‘head up’ nursing position, admission to the ICU and potential intubation that would have afforded her a better chance of survival.

‘I’m sorry for such a loss of such a young woman so suddenly and so shockingly.’

Over the last two years of her life Ms Young had been researching her family tree for a book about her father – who died in 2002 when Gaia was only five years old. She was the youngsters of his six children. 

Ms Young’s family said she at the time of her death was just as passionate about social justice as her father and – after travelling across California by public transport with her mother – became incensed at the political inaction over rampant homelessness in Los Angeles’s notorious Skid Row.

On her return to the UK, she began donating to the Skid Row Running Club in secret until after her death her mother found a letter from the chairman of the charity thanking Ms Young for her generosity.

She also volunteered helping vulnerable neighbours during lockdown and donated nine inches of her hair three days before her death to The Little Princess Trust to make wigs for cancer patients.  

The inquest before Senior Coroner Mary Hassell continues on Monday. 

Source: Daily Mail

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