British teen, 14, dies from rare infection after breathing in mould

Jade Owens died aged 14 from a fungal infection
Jade Owens died aged 14 from a fungal infection
Share this article
0
Have your say

A 14-year-old died after she caught a one-in-a-million fungal infection - by breathing in mould.

Jade Owens was "full of life" just three weeks before a rare fungal infection killed off the inside of her throat, airways and passageways to her lungs.

Jade Owens in hospital. The 14-year-old later died from a fungal infection

Jade Owens in hospital. The 14-year-old later died from a fungal infection

Keen horse rider Jade was suffering from a suspected chest infection, but when it wouldn't shift, medics ordered extra tests.

Initial tests revealed she had type one diabetes and was put in an induced coma to save her life.

READ MORE: Eating red meat is not bad for you, controversial new study says
She miraculously pulled through, but just as mum Louise thought she was on the mend, Jade began coughing up blood.

Jade passed away just 20 minutes later. Tests later revealed she had mucormycosis - a fungal infection usually caused by breathing in mould spores.

The infection targets people with a weakened immune system and for Jade, led to the tissue and blood vessels in her throat to be killed off when being overrun with fungus.

For reasons unknown, people with type one diabetes are especially at risk of catching mucormycosis.

It is not known where Jade came into contact with the mould spores, but her heartbroken mum suspects it could have been due to her outdoorsy hobbies like horse riding.

Mother-of-two Louise, 35, from Stockport, Greater Manchester, said: "I'm heartbroken. You never think anything like this will happen to you and I want to make sure no one else goes through what we have.

"I think about Jade every single day.

"It's something I'll never forget, walking into the room and seeing my daughter covered in blood.

"It was like a murder scene. The blood vessels in her throat had burst and she bled to death.

"She choked on her own blood and had coughed it up. It was horrific to see and that will never leave me.

"The infection is opportunistic. Jade caught it because her immune system was weaker with diabetes.

"We had no idea she even had diabetes. No one else in the family has it so we had no idea what to look out for.

"If only we knew about the signs then we could have done something. I feel guilty in some ways for that."

READ MORE: Edinburgh University drug trial offers hope to ovarian cancer patients
Jade, the eldest of two children, took ill unexpectedly on 20 May this year.

Up to then she had been her happy, normal self, who enjoyed riding horses and spending time enjoying the outdoors with her family.

Jade had been focused on spending quality time with her family following the tragic death of her dad Paul Daniels, in 2016, whose relationship with mum Louise ended in 2007.

She started to complain about having a headache and flu-like symptoms and booked in to see her GP.

Jade, sister to Aiden, 17 and half-sister to Abley Stock, aged one, was prescribed a course of antibiotics as her doctor feared she was suffering with a minor chest infection.

But the next day, on 21 May, her grandmother Charleen Owens, a nurse, suggested Jade goes to accident-and-emergency (A&E) after displaying rapid breathing and appearing discoloured.

Beautician Louise took Jade to Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport and a finger-prick test found she was in severe DKA - Diabetic ketoacidosis.

DKA is a serious complication of diabetes that occurs when the body produces too much ketones, effectively turning blood acidic.

It develops when the body can not produce enough insulin and leads to the breakdown of tissue.

DKA can be triggered by an infection and if left untreated can be fatal.

Louise, who has a partner, Neil Stocks, 45, said she had no idea her daughter's shortness of breath and frequent trips to the toilet had anything to do with type one diabetes.

It doesn't run in the family and there is no known cause for it and Louise explains how she simply didn't put two and two together when Jade first got poorly.

She said: "Jade looked very poorly and hadn't been well all week. We went to the doctors and we thought it was just an infection and that was that.

"I had no idea it would turn out to be as serious as it did. I took her to A&E and they said she was in severe DKA. They said a virus can make it worse.

"Her body had stopped producing insulin and her muscles had started to break down."

Jade was kept in hospital overnight but was transferred to Manchester Children's Hospital on 22 May after doctors grew concerned at how she responded poorly to being given insulin.

Her condition rapidly decreased to the point where medics were forced to place Jade into an induced coma so doctors could carry out further tests.

Doctors told a terrified Louise her daughter only had a "50/50 chance of survival".

A further scan discovered Jade had fluid on her lungs and she was given antibiotics, insulin and food via tubes whilst in a coma for five days.

And this seemed to work - when on 27 May Jade woke up - and uttered the words "I'm starving, can I have a McDonald's"?

Louise said: "We were over the moon. We thought we were getting normal Jade back again and it was an amazing feeling.

"It was such a relief because we were told she was severely poorly and we thought we might lose her. She was moved onto a ward and taken off intensive care.

"It as great, she was up and about, was able to shower herself and everything. At this point we were quite hopeful she might come home soon."

Louise said Jade was well in herself but still had fluid on her lungs and doctors were planning a procedure to drain the excess.

Jade spent "two good weeks" recovering in hospital, according to Louise, who recalls leaving her daughter in hospital on 10 June in "high spirits".

But the following morning at 8:05am, Louise said she received a phone call from her mum who was at Jade's bedside.

"All she said is that something bad is happeningm," she said. "I rushed down there as fast as I could.

"We were ushered into a room and the doctor said she was coughing up blood and they were trying all they could to stabilise her.

"They were working to save her. I didn't know what to think. I was a mess. Twenty minutes later they came in and told us she had died. It was so sudden and unexpected."

Louise said the cause of death has already been confirmed as mucormycosis, a fungal infection only found in an average of 1.7 out of every one million people.

People who go into DKA, like Jade, are placed at increase risk of developing the toxic infection that can be extremely difficult to treat if not spotted early enough.

The infection effectively invaded Jade's immune system and ate away at the inside of her throat, airways and passageways to her lungs.

This caused the tissue to go through necrosis - the premature death of cells in living tissue - leading to the fatal bleed.

A devastated Louise said she's still struggling to come to terms with her "angel", and wants to speak out about the symptoms of type one diabetes to help raise awareness to others.

She said: "I miss her every single day, our lives will never be the same without her. To go what we have gone through is horrific. I wouldn't want anyone else to go through what we have.

"She was very tired and had experienced some weight loss but she was hungry a lot, too.

"Since all this happened we have learned more about diabetes and they are symptoms of it."

Jade's funeral, which featured a horse-drawn carriage, was held on 10 July.