Did puberty trigger my daughter’s death?

My middle daughter came home from school yesterday with a pretty box stuffed full of sanitary towels and tampons. They’d had the end-of-year talk about sex and periods.

My daughter wasn’t fussed. She’s quite happy to wait to grow up and, while she knows periods will happen at some point, she’s in no hurry and would rather be dreaming of ponies. However, as I took the box out of her book bag, my grief hit me again. I was taken back to July 2012 when Abi had had the same class talk.

Box of girls' goodies
Box of girls’ goodies

Abi was fascinated and seemed excited for the next phase in her development. She was always asking questions, chatting about it with her friends, noticing the changes that were happening to her. I mourn the fact she missed out on that.

She never reached the start of her periods, though she was definitely on the cusp of it, but I have a worrying theory about why she died when she did.

Puberty.

When Abi’s brain haemorrhage struck, as well as the natural shock, we were confused as to why it chose that day, that time in her life to go. The doctors were surprised by her case (which is always unnerving, as you kind of expect them to know everything). They told us that her type of haemorrhage was rare and even when it does happen it usually occurs in adults, who, like Abi, never knew they were living with a timebomb in their heads. It’s even rarer to happen to children; however, there is some similarity in the children affected and, of the cases they’d seen, the girls were often in the pubescent years (around 12 – 17).

When we left the hospital after Abi died, we knew there would be a review meeting around six weeks later, an informal inquest if you like, which enabled the whole case to be looked at in detail to see if anything could have been done differently, and to answer our many questions. We had lots of questions around why – I even wondered if it had been something I’d done or not done during pregnancy, or if her ventouse birth damaged her in some way – but nothing could be attributed as the cause.

Yet, when I’d looked up Abi’s condition online while seeking answers or support, I found we were not alone, there had been other girls out there (in the UK) who had collapsed and died from a brain hemorrhage – not the same place as in Abi’s brain but the same condition. What struck me was they were all healthy children, growing up normally, so why were these weaknesses occurring at that time? I asked the consultant during our review and she said, while there was no clear evidence (research is very hard to do in this area), of the handful of children they’ve seen in the last few years, they have been mainly girls, and mainly teens, and there is a possibility of a link.

I can’t help but feel, by some instinct, that the rush in hormonal changes and new demands on the body are what triggered Abi’s particular haemorrhage. After just five months at secondary school, she was changing fast – mood swings, greasy skin and pimples, filling out in the hips and bust – so much was going on in her life and body.

I wouldn’t want to alarm anyone reading this with daughters of the same age; like I said, Abi’s condition was pretty much unique to her, and this is purely my theory without any solid medical evidence. We’ll never know the truth of course, and as I’ve said in other posts it’s not really much good even if we did. There is nothing that could have been done to prevent this from happening and I wouldn’t have taken those wonderfully fulfilling 12 years away from Abi for anything. I’m glad we didn’t know.

But, even though they have told us with great confidence that it’s not hereditory so is very unlikely to happen to one Abi’s siblings (although now the words ‘rare’ and ‘unlikely’ don’t mean much to me), I cannot help feeling anxious about what is to come for my middle daughter over the coming months and years. At almost 12, she is showing the early signs of changing and I know that once she gets to secondary school in September it is almost a trigger to the body to say, ‘come on, it’s time we grew up’. I don’t blame her for not being interested, but she can’t stop time.

Yet I refuse to let my fears control me. I could so easily become scared and hyper-anxious over this. But there’s nothing I can do about it. So all I can do is pray that, when my daughter changes, it is as smooth a transition as possible and be there for her, as I would have been for Abi.

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17 thoughts on “Did puberty trigger my daughter’s death?

  1. Oh my goodness, that is quite scary, but I admire you for not being overly scared or anxious and letting nature take its course. Puberty is hard enough time for everyone, without this additional burden, and that’s certainly not something your daughter needs at this time. x

    1. Thanks Sarah. I’ve had this nagging doubt all the time but it was just brought to mind again after their talk. I’d like to say ‘I’m sure it’ll be fine’ – but I can’t for obvious reasons. At least, though, it will mean I will be extra supportive of her and will remind me not to be too irritated by the mood swings. x

  2. I would completely understand if you were ‘over-anxious’ about this and admire you hugely for not letting it take control. This is quite a scary thought. I have two daughters in this stage of life and would never for a second connect the two. I imagine seeing another daughter reaching the same stage of life must be so hard for you. Lots of love x x

    1. Thanks Suzanne. I really wouldn’t want to worry anyone, but it relates to real life and real anxieties, which is what this is all about. We all know the ‘what ifs’ when it comes to parenting and this is just another one. xx

  3. I think anyone can understand your anxiety in the circumstances. It’s really difficult to get your head around something that’s so rare and when there are no answers. No one understands HELLP syndrome, why it affected me, especially so early, and it took my precious baby. It’s horribly, horribly sad.

    1. Thanks Leigh. Part of the pain of grief is the not knowing, but in my case knowing dosn’t make it better, it makes it worse, as we’d stop living our lives. I do hope you get some answers one day xxx

  4. I think most of us were raised to believe that if we did the right things and made sensible choices, that everything would always fall into place and work out. We have the illusion of control over the course of our lives. However, if this were true our children would still be here. It is an earth-shattering revelation to discover that things will happen that we cannot control. I’m still in shock that life can change so radically in an instant.

    1. Thank you. Yes, I am I’m shock too. It’s like we have been told a terrible secret no one else knows, as not many understand what it is to live with this knowledge.

  5. You do everything you can for your children, you look after them and care for them, but sometimes, there are things that are completely out of your control.
    I wonder sometimes whether some people are just not meant to be in our lives for a long time. They come in, touch our hearts and leave, but leave beautiful memories.

  6. Well done for not letting this consume your thoughts and make you over-anxious as your younger daughter grows up. I guess you’ll always wonder if puberty was a contributing factor in what happened to Abi and it’s normal to crave answers. Thinking of you x

  7. What everyone else has said. Every reminder must be awful, and big life events like going to high school are impossible to ignore, and to compare and remember. You know they’re coming though, it must be the less obvious things that catch you unawares and really sting.
    You’re a very strong woman, and to not let worry spoil this time with your middle daughter is commendable indeed x

  8. I can’t begin to imagine what that must feel like for you, I know I’d be feeling anxious given all you’ve gone through. You are incredibly strong to be able to deal with revisiting things that trigger your grief without letting impact on how you are carrying on with parenting your other children.

  9. My best friend passed away when we were 13. She’d had seizures, I guess, and they still don’t fully know what happened. There was mention of a brain aneurism and this all happened 16 years ago now. I’m so sorry about your daughter – and now I wonder if something similar could have happened to my friend. It’s haunted me, not knowing.

    1. That’s so sad. I do wonder how Abi’s death has affected her friends. Your friends case sounds similar, sometimes, I’ve learned, our bodies go wrong. Your friend is at peace and you are left always wondering, I hope you can find some level of acceptance that will help you to live xxx

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