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‘Our sunshine girl...’

Date published: 07 August 2014

THE heartbroken family of a teaching assistant and former national swimming champion who died at home following a collapse in the bath have paid tribute to their “sunshine girl”.

Mum-of-two Jillian Hewson (38) tragically drowned in the bath at her home in Royton after collapsing on June 30, last year.

Jillian, who was a teaching assistant at St Joseph’s Primary School in Shaw, was discovered by a neighbour. She was taken by ambulance to the Royal Oldham Hospital but later died.

Her mother Linden Slater said: “We are all devastated by what has happened.

“She was very popular — a beautiful mum, our sunshine girl.

“It is such a terrible, tragic loss for myself and her brother Matthew. She was such a joy to be around. We miss her so much.”

Her husband David Hewson described Jillian as “an outgoing woman with a beautiful smile” during an inquest yesterday.

The couple had met while Jillian was at university in Swansea before they emigrated to Australia, where they married and had two children, Joe (10) and Anna (8), before returning to Oldham in 2007.

Tragically Jillian, who was separated from her husband at the time, was discovered unconscious in the bath at her home in Browfield Way by her son who raised the alarm with neighbours shortly after 5.15pm.

An ambulance was called and attempts were made to revive her both by neighbours and medical professionals however she was pronounced dead at the Royal Oldham Hospital just after 6.30pm.

The inquest, which was attended by more than a dozen heartbroken family members, heard that Jillian had suffered three blackouts in the two years before her death and had been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, also known as an underactive thyroid gland, in May, 2012.

The condition causes body functions, in particular the beating of the heart, to slow down and can lead to dizzy spells or blackouts as the heart struggles to pump enough oxygenated blood around the body and to the brain.

Jillian was prescribed medication to combat the effects of the condition but a toxicology report did not find the drug in her system at the time of her death.

However, it was suggested in the report that she could have taken it just before her death without it being absorbed into the system, therefore making it untraceable.

Consultant pathologist Dr Antonio Paiva-Correia also found that she suffered from left ventricular hypertrophy, a thickening of the heart muscle, which had not previously been diagnosed.

The condition, which often occurs naturally in athletes and swimmers, can also make it harder for the heart to function properly.

Dr Paiva-Correia described the cause of death as drowning where hypothyroidism, left ventricular hypertrophy and aortic valve stenosis (a narrowing of the valve controlling blood) had been contributing factors.

Police also confirmed the absence of any criminal or suspicious circumstances at the scene.

Senior Coroner Simon Nelson gave a conclusion of accidental death to which pre-existing natural conditions were a significant contributing factor.
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