Tragic death of Wigan mum of three who struggled with lung disease

A mum of three battling with health problems told hospital staff she felt like she was “dying” just days before she lost her life, an inquest heard.

Emily Simm, who lived in Hindley, had asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which caused her to become breathless easily and left her unable to walk far without needing to stop to catch her breath.

She was just 28 when she died on May 12, with a pathologist finding she had a chest infection which had exacerbated the COPD.

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An inquest at Bolton Coroner’s Court heard Miss Simm had an appointment at Wigan Infirmary on May 3, during which her chest was examined and she was found to have “clear air entry to both lungs”.

Emily SimmEmily Simm
Emily Simm

However she later told her mother Denise Simm that she had reported feeling “like she was dying”, but did not feel she was taken seriously and was sent home.

Miss Simm, who worked as a carer before having children, had used inhalers for asthma since she was a child and was diagnosed with COPD around eight years ago.

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At the time she was living in Higher Folds with her partner Anthony Turner and their three children, but the court heard problems with bin collections meant their home contained a lot of rubbish and had rodent infestations.

The family later moved to an “extremely cold and damp” caravan on the drive at Mr Turner’s mother’s house, with the children sleeping in the house at night.

Mrs Simm last saw her daughter on May 8, when she was “unkempt”, which the court heard was unusual.

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She received a phone call on May 12 to say Miss Simm had died. An ambulance was called at 7.30am that day, but paramedics were unable to save her.

Consultant pathologist Dr Naveen Sharma carried out a post-mortem examination which found signs of COPD due to asthma and smoking, as well as a chest infection called bronchopneumonia.

Toxicology tests showed Miss Simm had taken paracetamol and codeine at therapeutic levels, along with a recreational amount of amphetamine.

While the illicit drug could affect the respiratory system, the court heard it was “possible rather than probable” that it contributed to her death.

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Dr Sharma confirmed that poor housing conditions could exacerbate COPD, but was not able to say how long Miss Simm had the chest infection and whether it had been present during the earlier hospital appointment.

He said: “I have seen some chest infections develop in four to six hours – it can be as rapid as that. It can come on fairly quickly or it could be there for days. It could be a kind of subtle infection not manifesting as an acute event and then it takes over.”

Coroner Peter Sigee recorded Miss Simm’s medical cause of death as “infected exacerbation of COPD” and discounted that amphetamine had played any part.

He said she did not appear to have a chest infection when she went to hospital and it was “very difficult to know at what stage the infection became overwhelming”.

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He concluded that she died of natural causes.

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