The mum of a six-week-old baby who died says she’s distraught after an inquest concluded that his cause of death could not be determined.
Reggie Mitchell Maynard had been found cool and unresponsive by Jess Mitchell after she woke up at their Kettering home on March 5, 2022.
An inquest at Northampton’s Guildhall yesterday (Thursday) heard that despite efforts of his mum and a paramedic, who arrived within minutes of the 999 call, the infant could not be revived.
Hassan Shah, assistant coroner for Northamptonshire, delivered a narrative verdict after concluding it was not possible to determine the cause of death ‘on the balance of probabilities’.
Speaking after the inquest Ms Mitchell said: “I’m honestly distraught, the fact they have said no cause of death – we have spent the last 13 months fighting for these answers, just to not be answered. We will now have a lifetime of wondering what it may have been. All of the ‘what ifs’.
“No parent should have to wake up without their child, have Mother’s Day/Father’s Day alone.”
The inquest heard that Ms Mitchell had carefully put Reggie in the bed next to her after a 1am feed ‘at arm’s length’. As he had a cold she used her wrist as a pillow to prop his head up.
She said: “I made sure he was safe. I changed his bum, breastfed him and propped him up on my arm acting as a pillow. The bed was empty apart from us.”
Being very tired and breastfeeding, she had ‘possibly’ woken up at 3am – the last time she saw him alive.
The 19-year-old said: “At 6.45am I checked on him. He didn’t look right. I moved a blood clot (from his nose). I just started screaming.”
Paramedics arrived to find Ms Mitchell performing chest compressions but Reggie had died.
The inquest heard that an ambulance record, written the day of the emergency call, logged that Ms Mitchell had said she may have ‘rolled on to him’ in the night.
But at the inquest Ms Mitchell said she didn’t think that’s what had happened ‘on reflection’.
In evidence the inquest heard Reggie’s medical history. He had been admitted to Kettering General Hospital’s Skylark Ward on February 4 with a “possible viral infection” after Reggie’s arm had shaken. Ms Mitchell described him as briefly going limp and glassy eyed. He had been taken to A&E.
After swabs and bloods were taken Reggie, then 18-days-old, was given a precautionary five-day course of three different antibiotics.
Consultant paediatrician Dr Mya Mya Yee said that she had ‘no concerns’ with Reggie feeding and sleeping well with no repeat of the symptoms.
A month later, the day before Reggie’s death, his parents took him to Dryland Medical Centre in Kettering because they were concerned about his cold and flu-like symptoms.
Since they didn’t have the correct paperwork, including proof of address, they were unable to get a medical appointment.
Reggie’s dad said: “We were told to just come back tomorrow or on Monday. We were trying to the appointment – we pleaded.”
But the following morning Reggie was dead.
After an investigation by the practice’s safeguarding lead, in a statement Dr Ego Sharma informed the coroner that staff ‘didn’t have any recollection’ of the couple asking for an appointment or coming into the surgery, but that since the incident a ‘full review of registration polices’ had been made.
Dr Roger Malcomson, a paediatric pathologist at Leicester Royal Infirmary, said he could not say Reggie’s death was Sudden Infant Death Syndrome due to the evidence of co-sleeping (sharing a sleeping space with an infant).
He said: “There is no evidence of over-laying, but it is quite common not to find any. I can’t prove it or not if he was over-laid or not.”
Dr Malcomson added: “Co-sleeping, I consider to be unsafe. It is an unsafe practice. In my experience half of the deaths are to do with co-sleeping. In good faith I couldn’t say it was safe.”
After extending his condolences to Reggie’s parents Mr Shah concluded that he could not give a cause of death and recorded it as ‘unascertained’.
Ms Mitchell said: “Everyone we meet who finds out about Reggie when they ask how he died, we have to tell them we don’t know, we will never know and it’s something we have to live, with not knowing if our baby could have been saved.”
Kettering General Hospital’s chief executive, Deborah Needham, said: “We offer our sincere condolences to Jessica and Andrew on the tragic loss of their baby son Reggie. If Jessica and Andrew have any questions or concerns about his care in hospital we are happy to meet with them to offer further explanation and support.”
Safe Sleeping advice
According to charity The Lullaby Trust, the safest place for a baby to sleep is in a clear, flat, separate sleep space.
However, a recent survey of over 3,400 parents showed us that many parents co-sleep with their baby at least some of the time and that many parents have accidentally fallen asleep in bed with their baby.
A recent report from the National Child Mortality Database also highlighted that many babies die in hazardous co-sleeping situations, the majority of which are unplanned.
The NHS now offer advice on safe co-sleeping on its Reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
The guidelines state that if you share a bed with your baby you should:
– make sure they sleep on a firm, flat mattress lying on their back
– not have any pillows or duvets near them
– not have other children or pets in the bed at the same time