A baby tragically died after she stopped breathing at her Ellesmere Port home.
Two-month-old Gracie-Mae Smith died at the Countess of Chester Hospital on May 5, 2019.
An inquest into the death of Gracie-Mae took place at Warrington Coroner’s Court today (Monday, September 6).
The court heard how medics could not save the two-month old after she stopped breathing at her family home.
Gracie-Mae’s mum, Chelsea Webber, said her daughter had been fed as usual on the morning of May 5.
Chelsea placed her daughter, who had no prior health conditions, down beside her on the couch after she became sleepy that evening.
She initially placed Gracie-Mae on her back, but she was ‘unsettled and agitated’, and after picking her up again, she settled down.
She then attempted to place Gracie-Mae down on her side on some cushions, but she remained unsettled.
Gracie-May was then placed on her front, with her head next to the arm of the chair and her feet beside Chelsea, who was sitting on the couch with her.
Chelsea added that Gracie-Mae was settled and comfortable, and that she checked on her 20-25 times to make sure she was ok.
Tragically, after around 20 minutes, Chelsea checked on Gracie-Mae and realised that she was no longer breathing.
Chelsea’s brother called an ambulance, with the control room giving Chelsea instructions on how to resuscitate her daughter.
The ambulance arrived around 15 minutes later, with paramedics taking over the resuscitation effort.
Paramedics decided to rush Gracie-May to the Countess of Chester Hospital for further care, but medics were unable to resuscitate the two-month-old, who tragically died at the hospital later that day.
Dr Daniel Hurrell, a consultant paediatric consultant at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, carried out an examination of Gracie-Mae following her death.
Dr Hurrell said the autopsy examination showed no abnormalities and no evidence of injuries.
He said: “Essentially this was a negative post mortem. There were very few positive findings.
“The only thing to highlight were subtle changes in the spleen and on a blood smear, which would be consistent with the history that the mum has provided of hereditary Spherocytosis, but there was nothing to suggest that this was in anyway severe or contributed to the baby’s death.”
Dr Hurrell said he was unable to provide an opinion on the cause of Gracie-Mae’s death.
When asked about a potential conclusion of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) as the cause of death, Dr Hurrell referred to his summary report.
He said: “There was no evidence of any natural disease process that could easily explain or account for Gracie’s sudden and unexpected death.
“Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is by definition a diagnosis of exclusion and used where there are no features identified in the history, post mortem investigation or ancillary investigations which may themselves have contributed to death.
“Sleeping face down on a pillow or sofa is a hazardous sleeping environment for a child of this age, lacking the ability to change position or manoeuvre it’s head and airway from a hypoxic micro environment.
“In these circumstances, it is not possible to completely exclude accidental airway obstruction having caused or contributed to death and as such, I have left the cause of death as undetermined.
“Gracie may well have died of SIDS or cot death but, as I say in my report, it is not possible to exclude accidental obstruction of her airway caused by that sleeping environment as a cause or contributor to her death.”
The court also heard evidence from Police Sergeant Paul Munnerley, who was response sergeant on the evening of the incident.
He confirmed that neither him or any officer involved had any reason to suspect any third party involvement in Gracie-Mae’s death or any suspicious circumstances involved.
Assistant Coroner, Peter Sigee, ended by a short oral decision before his conclusion.
He said: “Considering then the medical cause of Gracie-Mae’s death, I have considered carefully the evidence of Dr Hurrell.
“I have endeavoured to reach a positive decision in relation to Gracie-Mae’s death, but Dr Hurrell was not able to give a firm opinion to me as to the cause of Gracie-Mae’s death.
“He identified two matters which were potentially causative of her death and he was not able to say which should be preferred by me.
“In those circumstances, I find that the cause of Gracie-Mae’s death is undetermined.”
Summarising the facts, Mr Sigee added: “Miss Gracie-Mae Smith died at the Countess of Chester Hospital on the 5th May 2019 aged two months having been found unresponsive in a hazardous sleeping position at her home in Ellesmere Port earlier that day.
“Efforts were made to resuscitate Gracie-Mae but without success. It has not been possible, despite investigation, to ascertain the medical cause of death.”
Mr Sigee reach an open conclusion into the death of Gracie-Mae, citing that it was the appropriate conclusion as he is ‘unable to decide’ any other conclusion.
He said: “I am required to come to a conclusion in relation to Gracie-Mae’s death and because it has not been possible for me to determine the medical cause of death, I am satisfied the appropriate conclusion for me to reach in relation to Gracie-Mae’s death is an open conclusion.
“That simply means I am not able to decide any other conclusion that I should reach in relation to Gracie-Mae.”