A “BEAUTIFUL” carer died from a blood clot caused by the contraceptive pill after two years without a check-up, her heartbroken parents have revealed.
Riszka Szymkowska, 22, died unexpectedly at her home in Walsall, West Mids., last year after complaining she felt unwell.
The support worker, who “absolutely loved her job” and would “do anything for anybody,” had been put on the ‘Lucette’ pill – a combined contraceptive pill – two years earlier.
Riszka's mum Melania Hadley, 51, and step dad Paul Hadley, 55, now want to raise awareness for other women who may be at risk.
Riszka had complained of back pain in the weeks up to her death and on April 5 last year, she went to bed telling her partner Craig she felt unwell.
Step dad Paul, who saw Riszka as his own, explained: “It was about 10.40pm when Craig went to check on her. He went upstairs and she was on the floor.”
An inquest revealed Riszka had died as a result of a blood clot caused by the pill.
She had been given the medication to regulate her periods, after being diagnosed with polycycstic ovaries.
Medics had advised her to come back for check-ups, but when no appointments were available, they continued to give her the medication.
“Her last contact with a doctor was a phone consultation because of Covid,” Paul explained.
“So she hadn’t had her blood pressure taken or her weight checked in two years. They just kept giving her the pill.
“From what we can gather, this blood clot was on her leg and it just travelled to her heart and killed her.”
Riszka’s death came during the peak of the first Covid lockdown, meaning she had not been able to hug mum Melania or Paul for a month before she died.
“She took the lockdown very seriously because of her work and the last time I hugged her was on Mother’s day,” Melania explained.
“She was the most loving, caring, daughter. I miss her so much everyday.
“Nothing was ever too much for her. She was always there for us.”
Last week, it was revealed women will be able to buy the Progestogen-only pill at the pharmacy under radical plans to boost access – something Paul hopes customers will not rush into.
The loving dad, whose own daughter Samantha was best friends with Riszka, said: “I’m not saying the pill is wrong – it’s a great thing. But it must be the right one with the right checks and everything in line.
What are the different types of pills and what are the risks?
Dr Sarah Welsh explains the differences and the risks with the two main categories of pills.
There are two main categories of pill, combined oestrogen and progesterone, two main female hormones and the progesterone only pill.
Dr Sarah says the things health pracitioners worry about with the combined pill are:
- blood clots
- blood pressure
"Deep vein thrombosis can start in the legs and move up and could lead to a heart attack or stroke. When doctors prescribe these that’s why we ask about family history and blood pressure, but in the grand scheme of things it’s a small risk".
With the progesterone only pill Dr Sarah says there are fewer risks.
"They can create small cysts on your ovaries. But it’s important to note that there are lots of studies into taking pills and risks of cancer, breast cancer ect, some are higher risk.
"Some studies say there is a risk, but the National Cancer Institute said that these risks will go back to normal after you have stopped taking the pill for 10 years.
"The final risk is that if you fall pregnant there is a higher risk of ectopic pregnancy"
If you are on the pill, aim to get checked by your nurse or doctor at least every 12 months to ensure any problems are caught in advance.
It may be as simple as changing the pill you are on or opting for a new method of contraception.
Of the combined pill, he said: “It can be extremely dangerous. Riszka was 22, she had the rest of her life to live in front of her. She was beautiful, such a caring person. She would do anything for anybody.”
To women getting the pill, he added: “Definitely have your blood pressure checked, have your weight checked and go back in six months.
“If anything changes, or you get pains in your legs, pains in your back, go and get checked. We’ve heard of so many different symptoms. It could kill you.”
The Clinical Commissioning Group responsible for Riszka's medical treatment has since worked with Paul and Melania to implement a new practice whereby women will not be given the pill unless they have had a check-up in the last 12 months.
The parents have been grateful for their support and hope this can be taken nationwide.
“If this can stop one more family going through what we’ve been through it will be a result,” Paul said.
“We would like this practice of 12 month check ups put into law across the country, it would be a legacy for our beautiful baby girl.”
Sexual health charity Brook said: “There is a very small risk of blood clots when taking combined hormonal contraception and risk assessments are carried out by a medical professional to ensure any risk is further minimised.
"If combined hormonal contraception is not suitable then a different method will be suggested.
“If you are taking the combined contraceptive pill but are worried about blood clots, it is important that you do not stop taking the pill as this may lead to an unplanned pregnancy. Instead, speak to your healthcare provider who can offer advice."
Are you at risk of a blood clot?
The NHS states there are a number of factors that could put you at risk of a blood clot.
- staying in or having recently left hospital – especially if you can't move around much (like after an operation)
- being overweight
- using combined hormonal contraception such as the combined pill, contraceptive patch or vaginal ring
- having had a blood clot before
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