A tragic incident unfolded in England when a mother of two succumbed to excessive water consumption, leading to her untimely death. Michelle Whitehead, a 45-year-old woman, was admitted to the Millbrook Mental Health Unit in Nottinghamshire on May 5, 2021, following a mental breakdown. Unfortunately, two days later, she passed away after consuming an excessive amount of water, which led to a coma.
Michelle’s husband, Michael Whitehead, has pointed fingers at the health facility, stating that his wife’s life could have been saved if the staff had acted promptly. He believes that Michelle could have been saved if she had been transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and put on a drip.
Michelle was suffering from a condition known as psychogenic polydipsia, a disorder characterized by excessive voluntary water intake. This condition is often observed in patients with psychiatric or neurodevelopmental disorders, according to the medical journal BMJ Best Practice.
However, Michael alleges that the staff at the facility failed to diagnose Michelle’s condition and allowed her unsupervised access to water in her room. An investigation into her death revealed that Michelle was given tranquilizers to help her sleep, and she subsequently fell into a coma. The staff reportedly did not realize this until four hours later.
Michelle was then transferred to King’s Mill Hospital, where she died due to low sodium levels caused by excessive water consumption. The excessive water intake led to brain swelling, which ultimately resulted in her death.
The investigation also revealed that Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust admitted to eight failings, including not adhering to their policy after tranquilizing Michelle and staff being distracted by their mobile phones. The investigation concluded that these failings at the mental health unit “probably more than minimally” contributed to her death.
The coroner has urged the mental health unit to improve their detection of psychogenic polydipsia to prevent such incidents in the future. Ifti Majid, CEO of Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, has apologized to the family and acknowledged that there were aspects of care that were not up to the mark.
Michael and Michelle were childhood sweethearts, having met when he was 17 and she was 15. They were together for 30 years and had two sons, one of whom has Down syndrome. Michelle had given up her job as a nursery nurse to care for her son full-time for 19 years.