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Grandmother Beryl Rimmer
"I think the way I was treated was unbelievable."
 real 56k

Friday, 27 April, 2001, 17:44 GMT 18:44 UK
Inquest uncertainty over CJD death
Victoria Rimmer, CJD victim
Victoria Rimmer was diagnosed with CJD at the age of 15
Relatives have expressed disappointment after a coroner ruled that a girl was likely to have died of a form of CJD unrelated to BSE-infected cattle.

Following an inquest into the death of 20-year-old Vicky Rimmer from Deeside - who had lain in a coma for four-and-a-half years - Coroner John Hughes said the evidence was unclear but suggested she died from sporadic CJD.

Beryl Rimmer
Beryl Rimmer said her treatment was 'unbelievable'

Sporadic CJD has not been linked to BSE-infected cattle and normally affects people in their sixties.

Grandmother Beryl Rimmer, 61, who had looked Vicky since she was a small child, had been pressing for a verdict of new variant CJD which is related to cattle.

She told North East Wales Coroner's Court in Flint how she first noticed symptoms in her granddaughter - believed to be the youngest person in Wales to have died of the disease - when she was 16.

From that point on, she said turned from the "perfect teenage daughter" into a moody and depressed wreck.

"Vicky was always full of life, she was sports mad and animal mad," she said.

'Staggering'

"Her health was excellent until March 1993. She was always tall and slim but ate everything in sight, but she started losing weight and started to look anorexic.

"She started falling, like you see cows with BSE staggering on television...

"She couldn't understand and said "What's happening to me mum?'

scientist at work
Experts are still investigating CJD

According to Professor James Ironside of the National CJD Surveillance Unit, Miss Rimmer's case was "unique" and tests showed signs of both vCJD and new variant CJD.

"Our understanding of the case is not complete. It is one of the most unusual and difficult cases I have ever come across," he explained.

"The characteristics of the disease suffered by Miss Rimmer do not fall neatly into any category.

"The investigations that we have performed so far would indicate that this case, unique as it is, has more similarities to sporadic CJD than to new variant."

Neurological damage

Miss Rimmer was initially admitted to Wrexham Maelor Hospital in August 1993.

Shortly after being moved to the Walton Neurological Centre in Liverpool, she fell into a coma. Never regaining consciousness, she died in November 1997.

At the time of her death, the inquest was told that her brain was so damaged as to look like that "of a 90-year-old who had undergone severe neurological damage".

After tests had been carried out, Mrs Rimmer told the coroner, a doctor had told her Vicky had spongiform encephalopathies.

Not sure what it meant, she told Vicky's GP who said: "That's mad cow disease."


I think the way I was treated was unbelievable

Beryl Rimmer
When she pressed doctors at the hospital, she said she was told not to go to the press as it "could damage the economy".

"I think the way I was treated was unbelievable," Mrs Rimmer said.

Coroner John Hughes explained the reason for the four year delay to the inquest was because Beryl Rimmer wanted both the results of an inquiry into BSE and medical tests into CJD to be made public before any hearing.

Mr Hughes returned a verdict of death by natural causes and concluded that Miss Rimmer died of bronchial pneumonia caused by CJD.

"I ask you to recognise that I take this step simply on the weight of evidence before the court," he said.

He went on to say that "new knowledge can confound us all" and said if new evidence came to light he would petition the Home Secretary to have the inquest reopened.

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See also:

23 Oct 00 | Wales
Family's warning over CJD cases
26 Oct 00 | Wales
Welsh families await BSE report
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