Legal high user fights for his life in Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton

Chef Gareth Street.

Gemma Street - 'I hope Gareth's story will stop others'.

First published in Somerset
Last updated

A PUB chef is fighting for his life after a ‘blow out’ on legal highs bought in a Taunton shop.

Gareth Street, 33, is out of an induced coma, but he may need a heart transplant.

His sister, Gemma, hopes the case will put other people off experimenting with legal highs.

She said: “I hope Gareth’s story will stop others who don’t understand how bad legal highs are.

“Gareth wants his story told. He said, ‘I didn’t realise how bad it was – if I’d known the dangers, I’d never have done it’.”

Gemma said Gareth was discovered by a friend in his digs, near North Curry, on Thursday, September 26, after taking “synthetic amphetamines (Poke) and synthetic cannabis (Pandora’s Box)”.

“He had a blow out and pushed himself too far,” said Gemma, 30.

“It was touch and go and he was rushed to Musgrove Park Hospital, where they put him in an induced coma for a week because of the strain on his heart and he was on a ventilator.

“He’ll never again enjoy the same quality of life he had. If he pulls through he’ll be so weak he mightn’t be able to climb stairs.

“They’re talking about sending him to Harefield Hospital for an artificial heart as a bridge to recovery or transplant.”

Gemma and her partner used the same legal highs, spending £30 to £40 a night and double that at weekends.

She said: “It seemed like harmless fun.

“I then discovered on the internet that a man had died from synthetic cannabis and checked his symptoms. It freaked me out that I had the same things such as bad breathing.

“We stopped immediately, but the withdrawal was horrible – hot and cold sweats, nausea and anxiety.”

Gareth’s father, Eddie, who used to run the Monkton Inn, at West Monkton, has travelled from Wales to his son’s bedside.

Gemma added: “I’m so worried for other kids. Parents don’t know about this stuff.

“Gareth was lucky he was found by a friend, otherwise he wouldn’t be here “We’re hoping the long-term damage isn’t too bad.

“He’s conscious, but he was still distressed, disorientated and hallucinating this week.”

Colin Close, medical director at Musgrove, said: “We continue to see patients in our A&E department suffering from the adverse effects of taking ‘legal highs’.

“Even though these substances aren’t illegal, it doesn’t mean they’re safe to consume.

“Quite often we, and the person taking them, have no idea exactly what’s in the legal high which makes it difficult to give the right treatment.”

Insp Stuart Bell, of Taunton Police, said: “We strongly advise that no-one takes any form of legal high unless they know exactly what’s in it and how it’s going to affect their body.

“There are a lot of legal highs sold ‘not for human consumption’ – some can be plant food that are actually poison.

“We’ve seen several cases locally - particularly with mephedrone before it was illegal – where people were having heart attacks and adverse reactions.”

Simon Tomlin, of Hush, where Gareth bought the legal highs, declined to comment.

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