A mother of four who collapsed after an emotional family court hearing has officially been ruled as a case of death from 'a broken heart'. Hayley Gascoigne, from Scunthorpe, had no idea she had been suffering from hypertensive heart disease, or high blood pressure, which is characterised by the thickening of the heart muscles. Apparently, Hayley had become very distressed by what she heard at the hearing and it triggered an abnormal heartbeat. During the inquest into her death, Senior Coroner Professor Paul Marks asked emergency medicine consultant Dr Francis Morris whether “emotional upset - clearly Hayley was very disturbed and distressed - whether that can precipitate, in a vulnerable individual (with hypertensive heart disease), a cardiac disrhythmia”. Dr Morris had replied: “We are increasingly recognising ‘broken-hearted syndrome’. People, simply through emotional distress, can have a cardiac event.”
'Broken-hearted syndrome' is slowly becoming more recognised in the medical community, but it was tragically revealed that Hayley's life might have been able to be saved if a paramedic had made a different call. At the inquest Gary Long, the first paramedic on the scene, admitted making mistakes and forgetting pieces of kit that could have been used to treat her. Long revealed that Hayley had a shockable heart rhythm but he didn't recognise it at the scene, and if there was a defibrillator at the scene she might have survived. Long has incorrectly told the other attending paramedics that the woman's heart rate was asystole, which is the most serious form cardiac arrest, when it was actually pulseless electrical activity - an improvement.
Simms said he downloaded data to show the rhythm of the heart and when he saw the results he was "shocked". He said Mr Long was "visibility shocked" when he realised it wasn’t asystole: "This patient could have been shocked 23 minutes prior to my arrival and the outcome could have been a lot different. The quicker you shock a patient, the more chance there is of survivability". The coroner concluded he had not found any failings of Yorkshire Ambulance Service but would write to Her Majesty’s Court Service regarding defibrillators at the court centre. He said in the aftermath of the incident, Yorkshire Ambulance Service has taken steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again.