AN ‘INSPIRATIONAL and brave’ young woman died of pneumonia just hours after she was sent home from an emergency appointment with a doctor who diagnosed her with a minor respiratory infection, an inquest has heard.

Tia Druce, who was just 22, had called 111 in the early hours of August 26 last year after feeling tightness in her chest and short of breath. Within an hour and a half, she had seen by an out-of-hours GP at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital.

However, Miss Druce, of Poole, was sent away with amoxicillin after the doctor checked her lungs, blood pressure and breathing. Pneumonia was not suspected as Miss Druce had no tell-tale signs aside from a low-level fever, it was heard. She also didn’t have a ‘crackle’ in the lungs that indicates the serious illness, and the inquest heard it was believed she may have bronchitis.

In the early hours of the following day, Miss Druce’s fiancé went to check on her. He realised she was not breathing. Miss Druce was pronounced dead by paramedics at 2.58am.

During an inquest at Bournemouth town hall on Friday, it was heard that Miss Druce had suffered with a range of conditions since her childhood, including hypophosphatemic rickets, which meant her legs were repeatedly broken and straightened with screws until she was 16.

In her teens, she was diagnosed with a chiari malformation, which causes the lower part of the brain to push down into the spinal canal. Before her death, she had suffered violent coughing fits which caused numbness and vision disturbance, likely connected with the condition, it was heard.

After a stay at Poole Hospital, she was sent away with a high dose of steroids to help. Doctors at the hospital consulted colleagues at Southampton’s neurological unit after being unable to reach Miss Druce’s regular doctors in Birmingham. However, such immunosuppressant drugs are not commonly prescribed to people with chiari malformation, it was said.

Concerns were also raised about the impact of steroids on Miss Druce’s weight. Miss Druce, who was often in a wheelchair, was then weaned off the steroids, and was not taking them in the days before her death.

Assistant coroner Richard Middleton said Miss Druce died of bilateral pneumonia, recording a verdict of natural causes. He did not ascribe blame to the doctors who treated her.

He said: “Tia was a truly remarkable young lady from very early childhood and throughout her life.”

Miss Druce’s mother Rachael called her daughter a “tough cookie”.

“She had the biggest, kindest heart and would do anything for anyone,” Mrs Druce said.