Bury St Edmunds: Woman died of heart problem after 22-year battle with bipolar disorder, inquest told

Julia Calver

Julia Calver - Credit: Contributed

A “VIBRANT and bubbly” woman died of a heart problem at a mental health hospital after a 22-year battle with bipolar disorder, an inquest has heard.

Julia Calver, of Tavern Lane, Risbygate Street in Bury St Edmunds died while she was being treated on Lark Ward at Woodlands hospital in Ipswich on November 26 last year.

Deputy coroner Kevin McCarthy said Ms Calver suffered from the “debilitating” bipolar disorder for more than 20 years and that the condition had “taken its toll” over the years with admissions to hospital, recovery and relapse”.

Paramedic Liam Smith confirmed Ms Calver had died when he was called to her room at Woodlands, which is on the Ipswich Hospital site in Heath Road.

The alarm was raised at around 8am when staff carried out the usual medication round and discovered Ms Calver would not wake up.

The court heard a statement from Mr Smith which stated the 50-year-old was found “face down in bed with her pillow under her head, hands clenched and it appeared the ends of the pillow had been held tightly”.

Pathologist Bamini Sivaragjah said post mortem examiniations found “no clinical evidence to suggest any trauma or unnatural cause of death”.

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She said on the balance of probability Ms Calver had died as a result of cardiac arrhythmia – an irregular heart rhythm.

The inquest heard throughout her 22-year battle with bipolar disorder Ms Calver had a tendency to refuse medication.

And in the days leading up to her death, the former clerical officer for BT, refused one specific drug, clonazepam.

Dr John Bellhouse, consultant psychiatrist at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said his only concern was that by refusing the drug Ms Calver could have delayed her recovery and discharge from hospital.

He said Dr Sivaragjah’s finding that Ms Calver had a small area of scar tissue in the wall of her heart could have triggered the cardiac arrhythmia.

Dr Bellhouse said conditions like bipolar disorder can put a large amount of pressure on the body, causing stress which could affect the heart.

“It is well established that at every age a person with bipolar disorder is between two and three times more likely to die than someone without the condition.”

Mr McCarthy recorded a verdict that Ms Calver died of natural causes, noting the cause of death as cardiac arrhythmia.

Ms Calver’s father David Calver added: “When Julia died we were left in limbo, this verdict will allow us to move on, it gives us closure.”

Paying tribute to his daughter Mr Calver, of Winthrop Road, Bury St Edmunds told the EADT his family were pleased with the verdict that his eldest died of natural causes.

Speaking on behalf of his family including wife Maxine, the former RAF serviceman said: “She was very determined and fought back all the time.

“During her 22-year battle with illness she spent around six and a half years in hospital but she bounced back so many times.

“She was a very generous person and had a great sense of humour.

“She loved children and was very happy seeing her nieces and nephews.

“Her death did come as a shock to us. She had been well for about two years, the longest stretch since she was diagnosed.”

And Ms Calver’s younger sisters Amanda Watson, 44, of Thurston and Janette Richards, 49, of Mildenhall added: “She had a wicked sense of humour, we all miss her so much.

“She was a lovely girl, sister and daughter who was struck down by this terrible illness which affected our whole family.”


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