Breastfeed mother who gave her life for her baby
She died of meningitis after refusing antibiotics for infection
‘Worse than labour pains’
A NEW mother struck down by severe earache died days after she refused to take antibiotics in case they harmed her baby.
Rhianne Statom-Barnett, 30, was breastfeeding her three-month-old son George and feared the prescription medication might pass to him via her milk.
But two days later the college lecturer was found unconscious and taken to hospital, where doctors discovered she had developed a rare bacterial condition called mastoiditis, which affects the mastoid bone behind the ear.
She had also developed meningitis, which can occur when mastoiditis is not treated quickly enough, and could not be saved.
The NHS says it is safe for breastfeeding mothers to take most antibiotics.
An inquest in Manchester heard that Miss Statom-Barnett, who worked as an English lecturer at St Helens College, Merseyside, had given birth to George in December 2015 with partner Ross Norman.
She complained of having ear problems the following March. Her mother Beverly, 55, a nurse, told the hearing that she booked an appointment for her daughter with their family doctor for March 31.
Mrs Statom-Barnett said: ‘We looked at her ear and it had blood and fluid coming out of it. She said she had a severe headache and her ear was hurting a lot.
‘She said it was worse than labour pains. The next day she went for her appointment and they said it was a viral infection in her ear but they gave her no medication for that.
‘At around 5am on Saturday 2nd April, George woke me up crying, and I thought Rhianne had got out of bed to get a drink and he was upset.
‘But when I went into her room I found her in a quite unconscious state. She had vomited and when I called out her name she didn’t respond, we called an ambulance.
‘At hospital the senior doctor came out and told us that Rhianne was effectively brain dead. It was heartbreaking.’
Mr Norman, who met Miss Statom-Barnett while they were undergraduates at Salford University, said: ‘She said she had an earache and she took some paracetamol for that and a headache.
‘She often suffered with headaches and cold-like symptoms, so this wasn’t unusual for her.’
He added: ‘We were told that it was an extreme meningitis infection that had taken hold.’
Family doctor Matthew Jones said there was no evidence of mastoiditis when he examined Miss Statom- Barnett. He added: ‘Upon examination I saw her ear drum had burst.
‘I did suggest antibiotics but Rhianne refused and explained she did not want this to affect her while she was breastfeeding. Four in 10,000 people can be affected by mastoiditis, so this is incredibly rare.’ Dr Lina Joseph, a pathologist who car- ried out a post mortem examination on Miss Statom-Barnett, said new mothers were prone to infection but added: ‘This was ill luck and a very rare complication. This could have been a viral infection on top of a bacterial infection.’
Recording a conclusion of death by natural causes, assistant coroner John Pollard said: ‘I know that Rhianne was a fit young woman with a baby and had a particularly active lifestyle. Her death was sudden and very quick and must have been a massive shock to family and close friends. The evidence shows that the doctors and neurological surgeons did everything they could.’
NHS guidelines say it is safe for breastfeeding mothers to take most antibiotics, as well as common painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen – but not aspirin.
New mothers are told to check with their GP, midwife or pharmacist.
Shock: Rhianne was found unconscious by her mother