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Coroner records baby Jessica Naomi Clarke's 'tragic' death, from Winchmore Hill, as due to natural causes
A coroner told the parents of a newborn baby that nothing they could have done would have saved her life.
Twelve-day-old Jessica Naomi Clarke, from Brookside in Winchmore Hill, died on July 15 last year in Chase Farm Hospital in The Ridgeway after contracting complications from a rare virus either at birth or in the week before her death.
Her parents Natalie and Simon Clarke broke down when hearing medical experts recount their daughter's final days during her inquest in North London Coroner’s Court in Barnet today.
Mrs Clarke said she alerted midwives from Barnet and Chase Farm Hospital to Jessica’s unusual breathing during the six days before she died, which they said sounded like “grunting”.
The baby also appeared pale when sleeping, although she regained colour when she woke.
However, checks taken by midwives showed no signs of ill-health, and Jessica continued to eat well and gain weight as expected.
It was only during the baby's post-mortem that her condition - encephalomyocarditis caused by coxsackie virus b1 infection - was picked up.
Mrs Clarke said when her daughter's breathing did not improve and began to quicken, she took her to Chase Farm for further checks, but the baby was discharged showing no serious signs of illness.
Medical professionals, including paediatric senior house officer at Barnet and Chase Farm Hospital Dr Alexander Moylan and paediatric registrar Dr Rhiane Davies, said they carried out extensive checks and were given no real reason to believe Jessica was unhealthy.
However, the baby’s health deteriorated rapidly when she returned home and doctors at the hospital were unable to revive her.
Doctors claimed an ultrasound test could possibly have picked up on Jessica’s condition, but they would only have ordered the screening if there was a real cause for concern.
Dr Moyland said he could have kept Jessica in for observation overnight, and Dr Davies said antibiotics could have been administered if problems had been picked up, but neither doctor thought this would have saved her life.
Jessica's father reassured Dr Moylan, and said: “From what we have been told, nothing could have been done to save her so we are grateful that we just had one more normal night with our baby.”
Coroner Andrew Walker asked if blood screenings should be brought in to test babies for the virus when concerns are already raised.
However, doctors said cases are so rare and symptoms so difficult to pick up that this would be unlikely to help the situation.
The coroner said there was no other verdict that could be reached other than death due to natural causes.
Coroner Walker told Mr and Mrs Clarke: “It is very important that you don’t think for a moment that there is something that you should have done or whether there would have been anything that could have changed the outcome of this case.
“This is not your fault. It is a tragedy and I know there is nothing I will be able to say that will make this any easier to bear, but you have my sympathies none the less.”
The family thanked the doctors for their professionalism and care when looking after their daughter.
Mrs Clarke said: "There is nothing more that could have been done, we understand that."
Mr and Mrs Clarke have raised more than £3,500 to date for charity Sands, which supports anyone affected by the death of a baby. To visit their fundraising page, click here.