On the early morning of Aug. 26, 2016, 20-year-old Abbey Parkes suffered from a cardiac arrest at her home in Tunstall, Staffordshire. Her live-in boyfriend, Liam Grocott, immediately contacted emergency services and paramedics found her slumped in the living room, unconscious and not breathing. After an hour and a half in the emergency room, Abbey Parkes had died. The cause of her death: her contraceptive pill.
According to DailyMail.co.uk, Abbey Parkes had been taking Logynon for six years under the advice of her general practitioner. The oral contraceptive was intended to help the legal secretary control her dramatic mood swings during her periods. However, the post-mortem revealed that Abbey Parkes had blood clots in her lungs; it was then discovered that she had Factor V Leiden, a rare genetic disorder that increases the risk of developing a blood clot.
The illness had gone undiagnosed, even after Abbey Parkes had been to a hospital’s accident and emergency (A&E) department two weeks earlier. Recalling the weeks prior to Abbey Parkes’ death, her mother, Amanda Parkes, stated that Abbey Parkes had been feeling nauseous, breathless at certain points, and complained of a pain in the right side of her body. She was prescribed an inhaler and steroids for her breathlessness.
“They seemed to perk her up a lot, which made her lull into a false sense of security and she went to work the next day,” said Amanda Parkes. “She was determined to press on through her sickness, but her colleagues were very concerned because she was clearly struggling quite severely. She didn’t go to work again after that, she was just too sick. I’ll never forget the day that she died, it will live with me forever.”
The combination of her condition and her medication led to Abbey Parkes developing a pulmonary embolism, or a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in the lungs. As a result of the blockage, her lungs were not receiving enough oxygen, and her body forcibly entered into cardiac arrest. Doctor Alexander Hart, A&E consultant at the Royal Stoke University Hospital, described the combination as a “perfect storm”.
Her mother only found this out during the inquest. Furthermore, Amanda Parkes was informed that people who were taking contraceptives were 35 times more likely to have a blood clot if they suffered from Factor V Leiden. (Related: 21-year-old woman suffers fatal blood clot one month after starting on birth control pills)
Amanda Parkes has recently been campaigning for increased awareness of the condition. She has undergone tests to determine whether the condition was passed down from her family or from that of Abbey Parkes’ father, Stephen Gordon, who died at the age of 33 in 1997.
“People need to be aware of the dangers that come from taking the pill. It does increase the risk of clots and carries other health risks,” the 43-year-old former A&E worker stated.
On Factor V Leiden, Amanda Parkes remarked: “It’s staggering that this condition isn’t more publicized. Yes, it’s incredibly rare, but as Abbey’s case goes to show, there’s always a risk. 250 people were at her funeral, and there were many more who weren’t able to make it but wanted to be there. She didn’t deserve to pass away in this way, but hopefully by raising awareness we can prevent it from happening to other people too.”
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