In the UK, a healthy 5-month-old baby suddenly died during a family sleepover while her parents were attending a concert.
Baby Esme Brotherton fell asleep in her aunt’s arms, but a few moments later, she noticed that Esme was unresponsive and not breathing.
Esme rushed to the nearest hospital but the doctors declared her dead on arrival. The cause of her death is unknown as tests were unable to provide clear results.
According to her family, Esme was born 19 days early by emergency C-section, but after being treated for jaundice, the baby was later allowed to go home.
Esme’s death happened back in May 2018 after her parents Shaun and Heather Brotherton got tickets to see Ed Sheeran at the Etihad stadium. The baby’s aunt, Danielle, volunteered to look after the child at her house in Northern Moor.
“Myself, Esme’s father, and his mum were going to the concert and it was due to start around 5-6 pm,” Heather told the court hearing. “Danielle was looking after Esme overnight for the first time but she had two older children of her own and I arranged a travel cot in another room.”
“Our intention was just to go to the concert, then go home but we went to a local pub before returning with my mother-in-law,” Heather added. “She and Shaun carried on drinking downstairs and I went to sleep, knowing I was picking Esme up the next day.”
“Shaun then received a phone call from Danielle to say Esme wasn’t breathing, and we had to go to Wythenshawe hospital as soon as possible, I couldn’t think straight,” Heather told the court.
“We got straight into the car and drove to Wythenshawe hospital A&E.In the car, I phoned Danielle asking her to tell me what happened but I couldn’t understand what Danielle was saying. ”
“All I could gather was that she and Esme had fallen asleep on the couch, but I didn’t know any more than that, and now it seemed Danielle wouldn’t talk to me or Shaun,” she said.
“Danielle kept passing the phone to the nurses and they just told me that Esme was very poorly, and I needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible.”
Danielle then told the court that Esme had been fed twice but was teething and crying, she added that the baby was placed in a bouncer seat at first before transferring her to the couch.
“There were cushions on it and it was soft and I did sit down, and I just fell asleep on the couch with Esme in my arms,” Danielle said as she broke down in tears. “I don’t remember going to sleep, but the baby fell asleep too and I woke up in the same position. Esme was just laid down on top of my arm, on her back, and heard my son crying upstairs for a bottle.”
“I left her lying down on her back and was literally seconds but when I came back I noticed Esme’s lips were a funny color,” Danielle continued. “I picked her up straight away but she wasn’t doing anything, then I got on the phone to the ambulance.”
“The emergency call handler told me to do CPR and I put the phone down to do CPR on Esme. I followed it as best I could and the next thing, the paramedics were there,” Danielle said.
Meanwhile, Dr Naomi Carter, the forensic pathologist who carried out a post mortem examination on the baby said that ‘attempts had been made to feed Esme with her bottle, but she wasn’t taking very well so she was placed in a travel cot to see if she would settle.’
“Because she would not, Danielle Brotherton put her on the couch with her,” Dr Carter said. “Initial reports at the time were that she had fallen asleep and woke up at 1 am and found her lying next to her, blue and lifeless.”
“She has died sometime between 10:30 pm and 1 am but we cannot give an exact time,” Dr Carter said. “Esme was well-nourished appeared in good health and there is no evidence in medical terms what caused or contributed to the death.”
“There are several possibilities,” Dr Carter explained. “When children die suddenly and unexpectedly, sofa sharing is quite often a feature that we find with these children, but in our opinion, death, in this case, is best described as unascertained.”
In recording an open conclusion, Coroner Nigel Meadows said that ‘infants do die suddenly without any reason, and sometimes, without any issue with co-sleeping or sofa sharing.’
“But it is correct that it is recognized now that co-sleeping or sofa sharing is associated with the deaths of infants in particular,” he said.