- The mother of a schoolgirl who died from the human form
of mad cow disease warned yesterday that the condition was "a nightmare
waiting to happen".
- Claire McVey, 15, died on January 11 from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob
disease after months of illness. She is thought to be the youngest person
to die from the disease which has so far killed 52 people in Britain.
- Following the inquest in Barnstaple, Devon, Claire's
mother Annie McVey, of Kentisbury Ford, Devon, said: "This time last
year I had everything. But I didn't spend Claire's 16th birthday having
sweet 16 parties, I spent it at her graveside.
- "This time next year this could be you. It's a nightmare
waiting to happen and until the next 20 or 30 years of incubation we won't
- In a statement read to the inquest, Mrs McVey, a registered
nurse, said she spent up to 24 hours a day caring for her "amazing"
- Claire had danced with the English National Ballet and
was a good netball player and swimmer. She planned a career as a lawyer
in the United Sates.
- But in March last year she became moody and depressed.
- She became abusive and felt out of control. She "looked
panicked and anxious" and felt unsteady.
- Eventually CJD was diagnosed. "My daughter was amazing.
I think she was relieved when she found out something physical was wrong.
A year later I'm still reeling from the rapidity of her decline,"
Mrs McVey said.
- Coroner Richard van Oppen said she had died after a "random
consumption" of a meat product contaminated with BSE.
- Inquest Told Of Girl's Rapid CJD Decline
- By Simon De Bruxelles link
- The first time that 15-year-old Claire McVey's mother
realised her daughter was seriously ill was when she refused to wear her
clumpy Spice Girls platform shoes to school.
- It was a terrifying inkling that her daughter was to
become the youngest victim of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (CJD).
- Anne McVey told an inquest into her daughter's death
yesterday that she had deteriorated with frightening speed but then clung
on to life for six agonising months.
- At first Mrs McVey blamed herself for her daughter being
out of sorts, fearing that her new relationship was the reason for the
dramatic mood swings and weight loss.
- It was only when Claire told her that she wanted to wear
trainers because she felt so unsteady on her feet that she realised the
terrible fate that lay in store for her "lively, vibrant daughter"
who had hoped one day to study law in the US.
- Mrs McVey, 41, warned other parents that the same ordeal
could happen to them: "This time next year this could be you. It's
a nightmare waiting to happen and until the next 20 or 30 years of incubation
we won't know."
- The inquest in her home town of Barnstaple, north Devon,
heard that at 4.50pm on January 11 Claire became Britain's youngest victim
of new variant CJD, the human form of "mad cow" disease contracted
from eating infected meat.
- Her mother, a professional nurse, described in a written
statement how the teenager deteriorated within a few short weeks last summer
although, in the end, it took her six months to die.
- Mrs McVey said: "It seems such a small thing now.
She asked that I write to her school requesting permission for her to wear
trainers rather than shoes because she felt herself to be unsteady on the
- "I noticed that she didn't have so many showers
or baths, which I now know was because she felt unsteady. Giving up her
high clumpy shoes told me more clearly than anything else that I was right
to be thinking of physical causes."
- For several weeks Claire had complained about "feeling
thick" and "out of control". She started asking for notes
to excuse her from PE.
- In a written statement which was read to the inquest
Mrs McVey said: "It was obvious then that she was having difficulty
with her balance. Over the next few weeks Claire smashed two telephones
and gouged into a table with a pen. She was unable to explain why, she
just looked anxious.
- "The next month saw an acceleration in the severity
of her symptoms and regression in her behaviour. She became younger than
her years and was seen by an optician who felt her eyesight had deteriorated
- From being an active and lively teenager whose physical
ability had earned her a coveted place as a junior dancer with the English
National Ballet, she became clumsy and confused, her speech muddled and
prone to uncharacteristic outbursts of anger.
- Claire first saw her doctor on June 9 last year. Mrs
McVey thought the problems could be a psychological reaction to her own
relationship with her new boyfriend Wayne Lee. Two close family relatives
had also died within a short space of time.
- When it became clear the illness was physical appointments
were made at North Devon District Hospital and the Frenchay Hospital Bristol.
On August 5 Frenchay ruled out a tumour. Tests later confirmed that she
was suffering from new variant CJD.
- Recording a verdict of misadventure, Richard Van Oppen,
the North Devon coroner, said the disease was caused by "consumption
of a meat product contaminated in some way and to some extent by BSE".
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