'Very rare complication' killed New Zealand woman after cycling selfie accident

Carmen Greenway took this selfie while cycling home - moments before she lost control and crashed.
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Carmen Greenway took this selfie while cycling home - moments before she lost control and crashed.

A New Zealander who took a selfie as she rode her bike died after she fell off shortly afterwards, following a night out to celebrate her mum's birthday in London.

Graphic designer and mother-of-two Carmen Jane Greenway was with mum Sherry Bennett when they rode home from the pub and the accident happened, an inquest into Greenway's was told on Thursday.

The 41-year-old, who worked with her husband Rufus on their audio and visual company, had drunk two cocktails and four glasses of wine.

Carmen Greenway was a keen cyclist and frequently took selfie images of herself biking the main road near her London home.

Carmen Greenway was a keen cyclist and frequently took selfie images of herself biking the main road near her London home.

But she was not wearing a helmet and may have been riding relaxed and one-handed when she tumbled to the floor, suffering fatal head injuries.

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A photograph showed she had taken a selfie just moments before coming off her bike about 90 metres from her home in Isleworth, west London shortly after midnight on August 18, 2016.

An inquest was told she died six days later after her head injury caused her to suffer an epileptic seizure and heart attack in hospital.

Her friend Emanuela Delvai described how Greenway, originally from Auckland, was riding her bike in front of the group before she fell.

In a statement read to the inquest, Emanuela added: "I'm not sure how it happened, we rushed to her and she was completely unconscious.

"It took a while for her to regain consciousness and when she did she was very aggressive and shouting she wanted to go home. It was not like her.

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"We had to pin her to the floor, there was blood coming from her ear and we didn't want to move her. 

"An ambulance came and the bleeding was stopped before the ambulance arrived."

Because of her injuries, she was taken to St Mary's Hospital's major trauma centre in Paddington.

Coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe said: "A CT scan confirmed the injuries. She had two fractures and significant contusion and bruising to the right side, affecting the temporal and frontal lobe."

While on the ward she was conscious but complained about the intense pain and her condition was monitored every four hours until her "sudden and unexpected" death.

Reviewing evidence from Carmen's mum, Sherry Bennett, the coroner added: "She was a strong, fit and healthy woman with a tolerance of pain.

"Whilst on the ward she repeatedly reported the pain as unbearable, both to family and friends and nursing and medical staff.

"She felt she was unnecessarily suffering intense pain for long periods of time and that her pain management was inadequate."

She was given morphine for the headaches but had been able to walk and use her laptop and phone.

But she started to complain of severe pain and difficulty with bright lights.

In her review of Carmen's mum's evidence, the coroner added: "On August 24 you arrived in the afternoon and your view was you could see her condition had dramatically deteriorated.

"She had been informed the doctors had found two bubbles on her brain. 

"She had been taken off morphine because doctors thought it could be masking her symptoms.

"You reluctantly left her at 8.30 that evening when visiting hours were over and she looked very unwell and had not shown any signs of improvement in the five hours you had been there."

At 5.15am, eight hours after you left, you were called and asked if you could contact Rufus, her husband, as they had not been able to get hold of him and asked you to come to the hospital as soon as possible.

"When you asked what was wrong they said she had a cardiac arrest and you should come to the hospital as quickly as possible."

The coroner concluded the cause of death was a heart attack, which was a rare complication caused by the head injury.

An independent expert, Matthew Crocker, was brought in to review the case but found nothing could have been done to prevent the death.

Concluding, Dr Ratcliffe said: "It would seem that some of the note keeping has fallen below that of what one would hope for.

"I think notes on the ward round could have been more full and informative.

"At the end of the day the independent neurosurgeon Mr Crocker is very firm and clear in his evidence that it would have made no difference.

"In his view the most likely cause of Mrs Greenway's sudden, unexpected death was that of an epileptic seizure.

"The area of the injury to her brain is an area particularly susceptible to epileptic effects, or to develop epileptic activity.

"At the end of the day we have to come down to the view that the death of Carmen Greenway was as a result of a tragic accident.

"The fact that she sustained a fall from her bike on August 18, that it caused a brain injury and she has suffered a complication, a very rare complication, of that injury, which is an epileptic seizure."

A tribute from Carmen's husband after her death said she was "the love of my life" and suggested she had hit a bumpy stretch of the road when she fell off.

Rufus said: "She had been taking some selfies on the main road, she did that regularly. She was not taking it at the moment of the accident.

"She was 100 metres from our house, one hand on the bars, quite relaxed, and probably had had a drink. 

"She cycled that way every weekend and perhaps it was familiarity breeding contempt.

"It's unfortunately an unfortunate accident. If she was wearing a helmet she would still be alive."

- SWNS

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