Ecstasy girl on way to full recovery

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The Independent Online

A teenager who fell into a coma for more than 24 hours after taking an ecstasy tablet at a New Year's Eve party was recovering last night to the relief of her anguished parents who maintained a two-day vigil by her hospital bed.

In a grim parallel with the death of Leah Betts, Helen Cousins, 19, collapsed after taking the pill and drinking as much as seven litres of water when she started to feel ill.

As police in Cambridgeshire began the task of tracking down the dealer who sold the tablet, doctors said they believed she had lapsed into the coma because the drug had hampered her kidneys' ability to deal with the water.

But despite the fits she suffered while in the coma, doctors at Peterborough District hospital were optimistic yesterday that she would make a full recovery after she was moved from the intensive care unit.

Leaving the hospital yesterday, her father Trevor, 47, told of the shock he and his wife, Janet, 51, felt at what had happened, mixed with relief that their ordeal appeared to be over. "She is getting better and we are incredibly relieved," he said. "We cannot put it into words. It has been absolutely horrendous ... a nightmare. But hopefully the worst is over."

The outcome is a stark contrast to that in the case of Leah Betts, who died after lapsing into a coma when she took one of the tablets at her 18th birthday party. It was thought that her death, considered one of perhaps 50 related to the drug, had been the result of a contaminated tablet. But doctors subsequently felt it had been the result of drinking too much water to combat dehydration.

Her parents - who released pictures of her on a life-support system to discourage others and took part in the making of a educational video entitled Sorted - yesterday attacked those who sold the drug to Miss Cousins and pleaded with others not to take the tablets.

"We never thought it could happen to us but it has and now we have to deal with it," said Mr Cousins. "Please if you are tempted to take drugs and you are listening to this, think about it. Don't take the risk."

She took the drug while celebrating the New Year at Winners nightclub, in Peterborough, and was discovered ill by friends who took her to a flat. But when her condition continued to deteriorate they called an ambulance. She was taken to hospital where she slipped into a coma shortly after arrival.

Dr Michael Dronfield, who is treating Miss Cousins, a sales assistant, said she had probably put her life in danger by drinking so much water, causing the sodium level in her blood to drop and induce the deep coma.

"It's not widely known that there is evidence that one of the problems ecstasy can cause is that it affects the kidneys' ability to get rid of water," he said.

However, the doctor praised Miss Cousins' friends who by getting her to hospital quickly and revealing immediately that she had taken ecstasy had probably saved her life.