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Mum's agony at delayed inquest.

Byline: Sarah Stack

The dying breaths of her teenage son will haunt a Teesside mum forever.

An inquest has still to be held on 14-year-old Anthony Iverson, who died in September last year at his Billingham home.

Heartbroken mum Pauline Hartly fears his death could remain a mystery forever and be diagnosed as Sudden Adult Death Syndrome (SADS).

She now fears that whatever killed Anthony could strike down one of her three other children, Dawn 25, Phil 23, and Mandy 19.

Today Mrs Hartly, of Allington Drive, spoke of how he left his last dying breaths on her answerphone.

She was away for the weekend, and as she slept Anthony called her mobile phone three times between 4.23am and 4.27am. His last call clicked on to the answerphone and left three minutes of deep heavy breathing before he went silent and it automatically cut off.

About four hours before his death, Anthony told his friend his heart felt "heavy" and was beating fast.

He used an asthma inhaler, which he hadn't needed for years. At 4am he told his friend, who was staying over, that he didn't feel well and was going to sleep in his mother's room.

His sister discovered her younger brother in the morning on his mother's bed, still holding the telephone to his ear. His time of death was given as 4.30am.

Mrs Hartly said: "I don't think he knew he was dying, but he must have been in pain and obviously knew something was wrong to call me at that time.

"He hung up twice when he didn't get an answer but the third time he must have gone unconscious."

A year after his death, Mrs Hartly wrote to MP Frank Cook about the length of time she was waiting for an inquest. Within a week a coroner's officer called to her house for more information.

"Anthony had been dead a year when they came out asking questions about his health and about what happened on the day. It was ridiculous," she said.

"We told them about the answer-phone message but they didn't listen to it."

Mrs Hartly, and her children, have all had electrocardiogram (ECG) examinations. So far all results have been negative, but doctors have told them that, until they know what killed Anthony, they do not know what they are looking for.

Around eight cases of SADS nationally are reported to CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young) weekly. Families affected on Teesside have been speaking out since pathologist Christopher Rettman told an inquest that specialist pathologists who can examine the heart further using slides are not based in the area.

"Everything indicates that something was wrong with his heart," continued Mrs Hartly.

"Something was going on that made it stop, something made him call me, and something made him pass out.

"I want to be convinced that a thorough post mortem was carried out on Anthony's body, and at the moment I am not convinced of that.

"I want to know if this procedure was used on him, and if not why not? We feel like we are living with a death sentence, not knowing what killed him, and not knowing if it can affect the rest of us.

"I can't sleep at night because I am afraid I won't wake up, and I am afraid my other children won't wake up. Even little pains and palpitations frighten me."

Anthony, a year ten pupil at Northfield school, who was described as a loving, caring, and funny, was a computer whizz.

Mrs Hartly is planning on moving out to Saudi Arabia with her new husband Stephen when the inquest is over.

A coroner's officer for Teesside has confirmed that a date has not yet been fixed for Anthony's inquest.

Mrs Hartly added: "I can't get angry about Anthony dying and I have no one to blame. I am still grieving.

"We can't even start to move on until the inquest is over, but I will never accept it if I am not told what caused his death. How can a 14-year-old kid just die?"
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Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Nov 10, 2003
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