Tragic story of mum who died at 37 after two decade battle to beat heroin

A mum-of-three died aged just 37 while she was in rehab following a two decade struggle with heroin addiction, an inquest heard.

Tracey Holden was a fresh faced school pupil at 13 but by the following year she was smoking heroin after falling in with a "bad crowd".

Her mother took her for counselling but treatment failed and she began an on-off fight against the Class A drug spanning 23 years.

Tracey, from Blackburn, Lancs, booked into a rehabilitation clinic in Manchester in September 2017 but she was found dead just weeks later on November 1 when she relapsed after meeting an old friend on a day out.

In the hours before she suffered a drug-related death she told a care worker: "I am scared – I don’t think I can do rehab it’s too hard."

Tracey had earlier been discharged from North Manchester General Hospital following a relapse when she met an old friend whilst on a day out to have her hair done.

Tests showed she had toxic levels of heroin, morphine, painkiller Pregabilim plus the anti-depressant Trazodone in her system after her death.

She had also been taking cocaine.

An inquiry revealed staff at the Lighthouse Care Centre in Longsight should have looked in on her every hour after she was returned to the centre – but she was not checked upon for three hours.

At an inquest on Thursday a coroner ruled the failure to check on Tracey each hour did not contribute to her death but he raised concerns about discrepancies over records produced from the clinic.

The Manchester hearing was told Tracey had a normal childhood with no medical problems.

But her mother Karen Holden said: "She was about 14 years old when she she started taking drugs.

"As far as I know, she smoked heroin but that was the first I heard about her drug use.

"She had made friends with other people who were using drugs and this started her drug use.

"I took her to a drug centre where she had counselling, but that didn’t have any benefit on her.

"She later travelled around the UK and sometimes abroad.

“When she worked in Benidorm, she detoxed off the drugs but used to drink Baileys, which she said did her good.

"I know that it’s swapping one for the other, but she more or less survived on Baileys rather than drugs."

Ms Holden told the inquest that Tracey had a "volatile relationship" with her daughter's father, whom she met in Spain, and she continued to use drugs after returning to the UK.

She added: "On the odd occasion, she would tell me that she was clean but I could only take her word for it.

"She ended up at the Lighthouse centre and I would visit her most weekends and she would sometimes come to visit me in Blackburn.

"On October 31, we were in Spain and her daughter rang me to say that her mum is in hospital.

"I phoned Tracey but she was talking normally, she wasn’t slurring her words.

"She said she had collapsed and she had a bad back. She was waiting for the doctor to come and see her.

"I said I would ring her later, and she said ‘no, just enjoy your holiday and give me a bell in the morning'.

"Everything seemed fine – I did ask her if she had taken anything and she said she hadn’t. I found out the next day that she had passed away."

Ms Holden paid tribute to her daughter, describing her as "funny" and "humorous".

The mother added: "She would sing The Greatest Love of All on the karaoke. She won us a few holidays when she was little in competitions at the caravan park.

"She also loved her family.”

Cheryl Ashton, manager at the Lighthouse care centre, said Tracey was admitted on September 4, 2017.

Ms Ashton said: "She had anxiety but had successfully remained abstinent from drugs. She had been out on October 31 as she had a hair appointment in town.

“Prior to that day, she had a review with her care manager and everything was going really well. With the way she behaving, there was no suspicion that she was doing drugs.

"But I was later informed by a support worker that Tracey had been found dead in her room. It very much so came as a shock to me.

“I was told that Tracey had contacted the Lighthouse to say that she was unwell and with somebody in Manchester.

"A member of staff organised for an ambulance to take her to hospital and the staff member then went to see what was happening and to bring her back home.

"She was discharged and returned to the Lighthouse.

“I was told that she was upset because she had relapsed and that she didn’t have the intention to use drugs, she just wanted to go to her hair appointment.

"I think it was a coincidence that she bumped into somebody that she knew in town."

Staff team leader Lewis Rice said: "I had known Tracey from the day she came to the Lighthouse.

"We had a really good relationship with what she was going through and discussing trying to help her.

"That night I called her off my personal mobile and she answered.

"When she knew it was me she said: 'I am so so sorry I messed up'. That’s when she told me that she had used.

"On the way back she wasn’t good and she under the influence of something of heroin by the looks of it and also under the influence of cocaine."

He added: "The plan was to keep her safe and try to get her to bed.

"We returned shortly before 11pm and around midnight Tracy had come back down looking for the end of cigarettes to smoke and was asked to return to her bedroom.

"She told me she was scared. I said 'scared of what?' and she said 'I don’t think I can do rehab it’s too hard'.

"Because she said that we went and say in the games room and had a good chat about what did she want in life and I knew that she could do it – she could recover.

"I was just worried the person she had been with might have taken advantage of her. Nothing did happen – the guy just scored for her and she knew him."

Support worker Amanda Ayub told the inquest: "Tracey had come into some money and I suggested that she spend it at the hairdressers – we even arranged the appointment to divert her spending money on drugs.

"But when she got back, she told what happened to her in town and she said that she collapsed and couldn’t move. While she talking, she would go from being happy and alert to slumping over.

"I asked her why she was doing that and she said she was ‘sliding’.

"She said this was because she had taken cocaine and heroin and would go between different feelings. After calling 111, Lewis was told that it was OK to administer medication and she went back to her room.

“At about that time, 2:30am, I had another patient who had heart pains and I said that after I was done with him, I would return to Tracey but after I finished with that patient, I went to get something at about 5:20am and then I thought of Tracey.

"So, I immediately went to her room and that was when I found her. Nobody had said we need to be checking on Tracey every hour."

Recording a conclusion of drug-related death, coroner Zak Golombeck said: "Cheryl and Lewis said they would have checked on Tracey every hour but Amanda did not check on Tracey for around three hours.

"She did not fulfil her duties properly but this feature has not caused or contributed to Tracey death.

"I have not heard any evidence that had Tracey been checked more frequently she wouldn’t have suffered the effects of the drugs.

"I can’t find that Tracey took all of the drugs as an act intended to take her own life.

"But it was deeply concerning I received two copies of records and other documentation which where not of the same volume. It suggests certain documentation was not provided to this office."

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