British teenager dies from chewing gum addiction, mother tells her story

To mark the 10 year anniversary of Samantha Jenkins on 3 June, her mother is warning the public about the serious consequences of getting addicted to chewing gum.

Bubble gum addiction
© Unsplash
Bubble gum addiction

Maria Morgan lost her 19-year-old daughter in 2011, but she still remembers what happened like it was yesterday.

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Samantha Jenkins

After spending the day outside in the sun, her teenager Samantha, started to feel unwell. Morgan assumed that it must be due to dehydration, so she instructed her to rest up and drink some water. Suddenly, she heard a loud thud. Morgan told Wales Online:

Me and my other daughter got up and went to the door and I said, 'What the hell was that?' And she shouted downstairs, 'Is this what it's like to die?' and then we heard a thud again.

The two found Samantha on the floor, having a fit and they immediately rushed her to the hospital. Because Samantha was continuously fitting, the doctors decided to put her in an induced coma so that they could get her salt levels back up and assess the situation. Unfortunately, Samantha’s condition kept deteriorating and three days later, she passed away. Morgan continued:

All I can remember is that I went into the hospital on Friday with a daughter, and I came out on the Monday with her glasses. That’s all I had.

Solving the mystery

It took years for the family and the experts to figure out exactly what happened. They started to put the pieces together when Morgan's other daughter brought up Samantha's excessivehabit of chewing bubble gum. Morgan said:

I could see by receipts that she was having them every day. I couldn't have told you how much she chewed, but I could say what I found—evidence that she was chewing them every day and was buying at least a packet a day on the way to work, sometimes two packets.

Initially, pathologist Dr. Paul Griffiths sighted the cause of death as cerebral hypoxia—which is caused by convulsion and depletion of electrolytes. And upon finding out about Samantha’s gum addiction, a coroner recorded that chewing gum could have been the reason behind electrolyte depletion. Additionally, the autopsy had also shown four or five bright green lumps which were later identified as chewing gum.

Since the tragedy, Morgan and her children have not touched a single piece of gum. And while she’s not trying to dissuade people from chewing gum, she is trying to make people more conscious of what they are putting into their body. She said:

I'm not telling the world to stop chewing chewing gum but what's annoying to me is that we don't know these things that they are putting into stuff. We think our kids are having stuff which is harmless. We have no idea what they are putting in.
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