COCAINE abuse killed a seriously-ill woman just weeks before she was due to have a life-changing kidney transplant, an inquest has heard.
Emma Carolan had been battling for two decades with crippling renal failure, which saw her undergoing a kidney transplant as a teenager and needing constant dialysis.
But on July 22 – little more than a month before her next life-altering operation – the 33-year-old was found dead on her bathroom floor at her former home in White Oak Walk, West Leigh, after bingeing on cocaine the night before.
During a hearing at Portsmouth Coroner’s Court, it was revealed Mrs Carolan and her husband Daniel, who was to be her donor, both used to take drugs together – despite her long-term health problems.
Now, Mrs Carolan’s heartbroken dad, Nick McKeown, has spoken out about the death of his ‘fun-loving’ daughter in a bid to highlight the fatal consequences dabbling in narcotics can have.
Speaking to The News after his daughter’s inquest in Portsmouth, the 51-year-old, of Leigh Park, said: ‘By taking drugs, the final ultimate price you could pay is with your life. But before it gets to that it could destroy what life and relationships you have.
‘The cocaine had taken over to such a great extent that even with the possibility of another transplant looming neither Emma nor Daniel thought of the deadly consequence taking drugs could have.’
Mrs Carolan’s body was found by her husband on the morning of July 22 this year, Portsmouth Coroner’s Court heard.
Paramedics were called but pronounced her dead at the scene.
A subsequent police investigation revealed no suspicious injuries, with detectives ruling out the possibility her death had been caused by someone else.
However, a post-mortem examination revealed traces of cannabis in her system, as well as 18 micrograms of cocaine per millilitre of blood.
Pathologist Dr Brett Lockyer, who conducted the post-mortem examination, said drug abuse had taken a heavy toll on Mrs Carolan’s already-weakened body.
In his report, read by Portsmouth and South East Hampshire assistant coroner Lincoln Brookes, he said Mrs Carolan had an enlarged heart which showed signs of heart disease – both of which could be linked to prolonged cocaine abuse.
He added a Spanish study had shown more than half of the people to die from short and long-term abuse of cocaine had enlarged hearts.
He said Mrs Carolan suffered a range of other health problems at the time of her death, which included a ‘chronic rejection’ of her transplanted kidney.
‘Mrs Carolan was not a well woman with multiple pathologies identified at autopsy which included an enlarged heart with left ventricular hypertrophy together with evidence of acute lung injury, kidney and heart failure,’ he said in his report. ‘The cumulative use of cocaine has played a significant role in the cause of her death.’
Giving a statement in court, Daniel Carolan said he had been unaware his wife had taken drugs and on the day of her death.
But in a frank admission to the court, he added: ‘We used to party all the time. It was no secret we used to go out and do cocaine.
‘But the last time we did it together was a long time ago; it was New Year’s Eve (2017).’
Mr Carolan said he was scheduled to donate his kidney to her during an operation in August.
But before her death, he said she had started to refuse to use her dialysis machine – a device used to clear the blood of harmful toxins.
However, tensions flared when Mr Carolan was questioned by his wife’s dad, who demanded to know why his son-in-law failed to take her to the hospital or persuade her to use her dialysis machine.
‘Given the state of her health and condition she was in, and the possibility that you were entered into another transplant in August, do you think you did your best to ensure Emma’s well-being to take part in an operation like that?’
‘I told her to go to hospital,’ a visibly frustrated Mr Carolan said. ‘I’m not going to chuck her in the back of my van and take her up to QA.
‘I did all I could. I ain’t a doctor.’
The coroner was forced to step in after tempers flared, which saw Mr Carolan swear and a relative storm out of court.
Appealing for calm, he said: ‘Can I remind you that this is a court of law. All of you need to use clean language otherwise you’re out.’
After a five-minute break, Mr Brookes concluded Mrs Carolan’s death had been a drug-related one.
He said: ‘She suffered from several serious health conditions which, in conjunction with her misuse of cocaine, had caused her death.’
Paying tribute to Mrs Carolan, her aunt Debra Stanley said: ‘She was vivacious, beautiful and fun-loving. She would light up whatever room she walked into. She was incredibly brave throughout her life. It’s heartbreaking she has gone.’