Breast­feed mother who gave her life for her baby

She died of menin­gi­tis after re­fus­ing an­tibi­otics for in­fec­tion

Daily Mail - - News - By Liz Hull

‘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

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