Caroline was just 14 when a family planning clinic put her on the pill…'Hundreds of young girls are on it,’ the GP told her mother. ‘In fact my daughter takes it.’ Six months later Caroline had suffered the stroke that killed her..

Daily Mail March 6, 1997caroline.jpg (162407 bytes)

JENNY BACON was distraught to discover her 14-year-old daughter Caroline had been given the Pill by a family planning clinic. Within six months Caroline, who had a history of headaches and dizzy spells, suffered a stroke and later died. Jenny, a special needs assistant, and her husband Tom, who runs his own electrical company, are convinced their daughter’s death was caused by the Pill. The couple, both 48, who live in Bradford, West Yorkshire, are taking legal action against the clinic and GPs involved and are campaigning for girls under 16 to be given the Pill only with their parents’ consent. Here, Jenny tells SHERON BOYLE their harrowing story.

The packet of pills was on Carolines’s bedside cabinet—I found them when I was tidying her room. The label said they were from a family planning clinic and they were prescribed to my daughter. About 3 weeks supply of the contraceptive Femodene ED had been used. I thought someone must have given them to Caroline. A child of 14 couldn’t just go to a clinic and get them surely? Not when the age of consent is 16.

That was how na´ve I was. I ran downstairs and rang the clinic ‘My daughter’s only 14—can you give her contraceptives?’ I asked. The receptionist, in a blasÚ manner, just said ‘Yes’. I was so shocked that I put down the receiver without saying another word.

Caroline had been going out with Wayne, her boyfriend, for a year. He was 17. She didn’t see a great deal of him because she was a real perfectionist and would spend hours on her homework. He came to the house .and we thought he was a nice boy.

Caroline and I had always had a really open relationship and we’d chat about boys. She’d agreed with my view that it wasn’t right for young girls to be having sexual relations.

That day I waited for her to come home from school. It was an October evening in 1992 and I can still picture her lovely, happy face as she walked down the path.

She came into the lounge and I said: ‘Have you got something to tell me?’ She knew straight away what I meant. ‘What’s going on? What are you doing?’ I angrily asked.

Caroline admitted she was having sex. ‘It’s OK Mum,’ she told me. ‘I know what I am doing. I’ve been to the Family Planning Clinic and they’re looking after me.

I tried to persuade her she was too young to be sleeping with her boyfriend but teenagers are hard work at the best of times. And Caroline felt she was getting some kind of official sanction from the medical profession because contraception was available to her. There was absolutely no way I could change her mind.

CAROLINE said she’d told the clinic about her headaches and the fact that my mother had suffered a thrombosis. They said it was only a problem if I’d had one and never voiced any concern about her headaches.

I tried to explain why I thought she was too young, and she kept trying to reassure me She was all right. Every time I raised the subject, she’d just say it wasn’t a problem.

But I couldn’t get rid of this gut feeling that it wasn’t right.

Since she was 13, Caroline had suffered occasional but severe dizzy spells. They always happened at school and caused her to lose her sight- for a few seconds. Her speech became slurred and a tingling feeling ran down one side of her face and fingers. She had had about five attacks in all.

The school always rang me and I’d take her to our surgery after each attack. One doctor there said it was her age; another said it was a migraine.

In December, Caroline and I went to the doctors. I hoped they might explain to her that I was talking sense about the Pill, but the GP cast aside my fears and told me what a sensible approach Caroline was taking.

‘She’s only 14. What about her headaches?’ I asked. ‘Better to be on the Pill than pregnant, Mrs Bacon. There are hundreds of 14-year-olds on it. In fact, my daughter takes it,’ was the answer to my worries.

Caroline and her brother Jamie, now 21 and an office worker were everything to Tom and me. I’d always thought I was a good mother.

Yet here were medical experts whose opposing values were invading our family life — and I could do nothing about it. These medics were saying It was fine for my daughter to have a drug in her body, despite my objections.

It was farcical. I had to sign for Caroline to have jabs for a school trip, sign for her to go away. By law, she couldn’t buy lottery tickets or cigarettes.

It was illegal for her to have sex until she was 16—yet these professionals were condoning it, telling children they knew better than caring mothers and fathers. I thought about throwing her pills away but knew there was an endless supply. There is even a special Saturday-morning clinic in Bradford to dish out contraceptives to girls under 16.

I wanted someone to say to Caroline that maybe I was right and she was too young to be on the Pill. I knew that if Caroline had any clue how the Pill might affect her, she wouldn’t take it. But not one ‘expert’ ever voiced this possibility.

It was March 1993 when Caroline suffered another of her attacks. As usual, I took her to the doctors, but this time I stressed that she was on the Pill. They said it wasn’t a problem.

Caroline was getting ready for school on May 26, 1993, when she came into my bedroom complaining of a tingling feeling on her face. ‘Lie down on my bed for a few minutes, love, and see if it passes,’ I said. I lay beside her and gently stroked her face.

‘It’s getting worse, Mum — it’s going right across my face,’ she cried. I could hear the panic in her voice and I became frightened, too. I rang the GP. When I got back upstairs, Caroline’s eyeballs had gone right up to her sockets.

Jamie took us to the surgery and the doctor said he thought she was having a migraine attack but we should go to hospital to double-check. As we got her to Bradford Royal Infirmary, I felt relieved and thought: ‘She’ll be OK now.’

Caroline’s teenageness came out as they sat her in a wheelchair. She was worried someone might see her and jokingly lifted her coat over her head. She was taken into a cubicle, but as we chatted, she suddenly lost consciousness. I thought she’d had a heart attack.

They rushed her to the resuscitation unit. Ten minutes later, they called me in. I was relieved to see that she was conscious, though a bit groggy. I held her hand and she said: ‘Mum, I wondered where you were. I opened my eyes and I was frightened.’

SHE WAS admitted to a ward and I stayed with her all day. She kept saving she didn’t feel very well and her eye-balls were again up towards her sockets. Tom, Jamie and I were sitting around her bed when, at 8.2Opm, Caroline had a fit.

She didn’t come round that evening but the doctors told us she would be OK in the morning. She wasn’t. She never spoke to us again. She never moved her lovely young body again. She never again put her arms around us to give us a cuddle.

Caroline had suffered a brain stem stroke which so badly damaged the nerves controlling body movement that it left her totally paralysed. She fell into a deep coma.

We saw loads of doctors the next day but one stood out. He was from another hospital and the first thing he said was: ‘Is your daughter on the Pill?’ I said yes — and that was when Tom found out.

I hadn’t told him and that annoyed me. These people who said it was okay for my daughter to have the Pill caused us to have secrets from each other. As I showed the doctor the contraceptives, I cried as I thought my instinct had been right all along. Caroline was taken to the intensive care unit at St James Hospital, Leeds. They told us one of her lungs had collapsed and she was critically ill. I went crazy. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing;

‘She’s only 15 for God’s sake —this can’t be happening to my little girl,’ I screamed. I couldn’t grasp what was happening.

Caroline stayed in a coma, never moving, for two months. Tom shut down his business and I gave up my job so we could devote our lives to caring for our daughter. Every day we’d make the 60-mile round trip to her bedside for 8am, and leave anytime after 11pm.

We’d wash her, comb her hair, talk to her and play videos of her favourite TV soaps and tapes of records. We’d include her in family discussions and gossip.

I’m so glad we did, because she later signalled that she could hear everything we said. I spent hours staring at the life support machine, willing her to wake up. I’d say to a nurse: ‘She moved a finger today.’ The nurse would murmur some platitude, knowing she hadn’t.

It was Jamie who first saw a flicker of movement in Caroline’s eyes after about two months. She gradually opened her eyes and could move her eyeballs up and down, though not side to side.

Jamie devised a means of communication. We’d go through the alphabet and when we got to the letter she wanted, she’d raise her eyes or blink, If we asked her a question and the answer was yes, she’d also raise her eyeballs. If it was no, she’d lower them.

It was a time-consuming process but It meant we could ‘talk’ to each other. I’ve got hundreds of messages from her that we jotted down over the next ten months. When we thought she had slight movement in a thumb, Tom devised an electronic buzzer she could press to summon our help.

Caroline came home for a few weekends but, apart from that, she was in hospital for the last year of her life. Tom and I never ate a meal at home for about a year. We lived off savings we’d built up over the years.

OUR daughter must have been frightened because her mind trapped in a lifeless body, was as bright and alert as ever. Yet she never once complained or felt sorry for herself. One day, I was crying in hospital before I went in to see her. She must have spotted my red eyes and spelt out: ‘Cheer up, Mum’, with her eyes.

Jaime was training to be a PE teacher but for a year he never went out. Wayne had faded from the scene and it was just the three of us caring for Caroline. We were cut off from the outside world and I was happy for it to be that way.

Caroline was at home for her 16th birthday in April 1994. We bought her a locket, flowers and lots of little gifts and she had a lovely time. A week later, on May 1, Tom found her dead. She’d been at home and he’d got up to turn her that morning, but she’d died in her sleep during the night.

An inquest ruled she had died of natural causes due to bronchial pneumonia.

I believe Caroline’s dizzy spells were mini-strokes, known as transient ischaemic attacks. I also believe that these, combined with the Pill, killed her.

I was on the Pill for 30 years and never knew the extent of the risks, or the side-effects, until I began looking into it — and I am a reasonably intelligent woman. What chance does a child have? My subsequent inquiries have told me that the Pill is a potent artificial steroid drug which, according to one expert, causes 150 chemical changes in a girl’s body. Migraines, frequent severe headaches or a history of visual disturbance are commonly cited as reasons for immediately stopping taking it.

Caroline was such a beautiful girl, always laughing and smiling. If we fell out, we’d both go off and sulk for a few minutes, then I’d pop my head round her door and ask if she was my friend. We’d end up laughing and having a cuddle.

I’m lost without her.

The medical authorities took away my rights as a parent.

I torture myself at times, wondering if I let her down. But I know it was the system which let us down as a family. I see these teenage magazines with stories of girls boasting how many boys they’ve slept with. The contents of some are almost pornographic, with ‘positions of the month’. I think teenage magazine editors need to be adopting a more thoughtful and responsible line. Sex is treated too casually, like a game instead of the special thing it should be. Why don’t they talk about love, respect, friendship?

Society today doesn’t seem to allow children time to enjoy being children. It’s hard enough being a parent and being a teenager, without all these external pressures on you.

Children under 16 think they are immortal. But they’re not physically, emotionally or mentally mature enough to understand the effects of taking the Pill, or able to deal with the pressures put on them.

A year after Caroline died, I decided that I needed some answers. My solicitor is now compiling reports from doctors and experts supporting my case. Professor John Guillebaud, of the Margaret Pyke Family Planning Centre in London, has gone on the record as saying: ‘Judging by the details I have heard of the girl’s medical history, she should not have been on any contraceptive pill.’

I formed Parents Against Oral Contraception For Children to raise awareness about how the law is being abused on this matter. At the very least, there should be a public debate on the issue.

THE Law Lords’ guidelines state contraception should be given to minors only in exceptional and unusual circumstances, but the medical profession has driven a coach and horses through that.

I believe the law should be changed so that children under 16 cannot be prescribed the Pill without parental consent. I’ve collected a 10,000-name petition calling for the Government to look again at the law. I’m handing it in to Downing Street on March 12.

Tom’s business was closed down for nearly 18 months while he recovered from losing his daughter. I work part-time now. People ask me how I keep going. I tell them I don’t know. I just keep waking up. Then I have to get on with it.

Caroline should be here today. I have a son of 21, but I should also have a 19-year-old daughter coming home, shouting the odds. Instead, all we have are memories and photos. PARENTS Against Oral Contraception For Children, 01274 499328.