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Family tell of shock over young Headington mum's death
THE family of a young mother devoted to her son have spoken of their continuing shock at her sudden death.
Jessica Harper, 21, of Headington, suffered a heart attack during the early hours of July 14, an inquest found.
She was a student hairdresser whose world revolved around her three-year-old son, Cyrus, and her fiancé, Darren Lenton, 21.
Mr Lenton’s mother Barbrah, 45, said: “Jess’ life changed once she had Cyrus. He was everything to her. When she was not at college she was taking him swimming and to kids’ adventure activities and any money she had she spent on him.”
She added: “The best memory I have of Jess is the day she had him.
“I walked into the hospital and they were just taking her out of recovery and she had such a big smile on her face and was saying how perfect he was.
“Darren was sat there and he had been crying and could not stop smiling.”
The inquest heard how Miss Harper awoke on July 14 unable to breathe and woke Mr Lenton, who had been sleeping beside her, with her irregular breathing.
He quickly called the ambulance and paramedics desperately tried to save her life as they rushed her to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
Miss Harper had been complaining of dizziness and fainting spells for several weeks before she died but, despite several tests, a cause could not be found.
A post-mortem examination found her death may have been caused by a virus and the coroner recorded a verdict of death from natural causes.
Miss Lenton, who lives in Barton, said: “Darren phoned me in the early hours and when I got there the paramedics were working on her.
“Darren did not even know what was going on and Cyrus was in the bedroom but he had woken up because of the commotion.
“I asked the paramedic if she would be okay and he said: ‘It is not looking good.’”
Miss Lenton followed the ambulance to the hospital.
She said: “By the time I got to the hospital Darren came out with a nurse and he was screaming and shouting, saying she had gone.
“None of it seemed real. The hardest part was knowing she was not coming back and trying to explain it to Cyrus.”
Miss Harper was brought up by her foster mother, Bev Barrett, in Headington and attended The Cherwell School in North Oxford.
She was due to start her final year at Oxford & Cherwell Valley College in September and planned to open her own salon one day to support Cyrus.
Miss Harper and Mr Lenton had been dating for six years and, after three years of engagement, they were saving to move in together and get married.
But since his fiancée’s death, Mr Lenton has had to give up his job as a builder to raise Cyrus.
About 200 people turned out to pay their respects at Miss Harper’s funeral at Holy Trinity Church in Headington on August 1.