Dad’s death on the day the baby was born “was avoidable”

Screenshot, Thomas Gibson was described as “loving, charming and funny” by his partner Rebecca.

  • Author, Gemma Sherlock and PA Media
  • Role, BBC News, Manchester

A father-to-be who died on the day his daughter was born could have survived if a heart defect had not been missed, a coroner has found.

Thomas Gibson, 40, died of sudden cardiac arrest on June 7, 2023 after a doctor at the hospital “misinterpreted” a scan carried out 11 days earlier, an inquest at Stockport Coroner’s Court heard.

The inquest was told that if doctors at Manchester’s Wythenshawe Hospital had given Mr Gibson a pacemaker he would still be alive.

Coroner Christopher Morris concluded that Gibson died as a result of sudden cardiac death due to myocardial fibrosis.

emergency first aid

On the day Gibson was going to be a father, his partner Rebecca Moss tried to wake him up while he was preparing to go to the hospital for an elective cesarean section.

“Wake up, it’s baby’s day,” she told him, but found him “stiff and cold” and tried to give him emergency first aid until an ambulance arrived at her home in Stretford, Greater Manchester.

He was pronounced dead and she gave birth to their daughter, Harper, the same day.

At the end of the two-day inquest hearing, Morris said: “I can’t even begin to imagine what that must have been like for her, particularly in the context of what should have been the happiest day for both of them.”

He added: “When the clinical team assessed him, they didn’t appreciate that the ECG showed he was experiencing complete heart block.

“If this had been taken into account, Mr Gibson would have been admitted under the care of cardiologists and a series of investigations would have been carried out which would probably have culminated in the fitting of an implantable device, such as a pacemaker.

“It is likely that these measures would have prevented his death.”

Screenshot, Rebecca Moss gave birth to her daughter Harper the day Gibson died

Speaking outside court, Gibson’s partner Rebecca Moss said: “The experience that could have saved Tom’s life was just a phone call away – I sincerely hope something is learned from Tom’s avoidable death.”

“I have been told investigations are not about assigning blame, but I have every right to be angry and seek answers for Tom, Harper and our family.”

Dr. Mark Ainsley, the hospital’s clinical director of cardiology, said that if Gibson’s heart problem had been detected on the EKG, he likely would have been monitored and treated on the spot and given a pacemaker, a procedure that takes “less than an hour,” he said.

The coroner asked: “Do you think that sequence of events would probably have prevented his death?”

Dr Ainsley responded: “I think the short time between the ECG and his heart giving way, I think it’s more than likely that it would have prevented his death.”

The inquest found Mr Gibson worked in a timber yard and was physically fit, but had been suffering from a stomach virus, including cramps and diarrhoea, for around three weeks before his death.

It all culminated in him attending A&E at Wythenshawe Hospital on May 27 last year.

He was seen by Dr Oliver Handley, who recognized that his ECG tracing showed signs of an abnormality and referred him to a more senior doctor, Dr Thomas Bull, the medical registrar, for a second opinion.

‘There are no other symptoms’

Dr. Bull said the ECG likely represents an abnormality he described as intraventricular block, which is “not an uncommon finding” and is not clinically “significant” without other heart-related symptoms.

Since he had no other heart-related symptoms, he was discharged.

But further analysis concluded that the ECG identified complete heart block, also known as third-degree heart block, the most severe type.

Dr Matthew Thornber, a consultant at the hospital, said the two ECGs taken were not “textbook” examples of what a heart block condition looks like and that such a diagnosis requires nuance and experience.

“This is not an easy barn door to miss,” he said.

The coroner said he would write a report on preventing future deaths, to the chief executive of the University of Manchester NHS Foundation Trust and the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, on clinical practice, around the interpretation of ECGs.

In a statement, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust said: “We would again like to express our deepest sympathies and sympathies to Mr Gibson’s family at this very difficult time.

“The trust has undertaken a thorough investigation to examine the circumstances following Mr Gibson’s very sad death, and we apologize that our care has not met the high standards to which we aspire.

“We will carefully review the coroner’s conclusion.”

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