Mum gives birth to daughter just hours after finding partner dead on sofa

Rebecca Moss pictured with partner Tom Gibson
-Credit: (Image: MEN)

A new mum has told of the horrifying moment she found her partner unresponsive on the sofa on the morning she was due to give birth to their daughter.

Rebecca Moss fought tears as she described saying "wake up, it’s baby day", but Tom Gibson didn't respond. She went over to the couch to give him a kiss and found him lying in his usual sleeping position - but when she touched him, he was "cold and stiff" and wouldn’t wake up.

Rebecca told how she called 999, pulled Tom to the floor and started trying to resuscitate him - but it was too late. Tom, aged just 40, had died from a sudden cardiac death.

Less than two weeks earlier, Tom had been in A&E for 12 hours suffering with a stomach bug – where two heart tests showed a ‘complete heart block’, which can lead to sudden cardiac death.

Now, as reported by the Manchester Evening News, an inquest has found that the complete heart block was ‘missed’ in the results and never investigated further by doctors. Rebecca gave birth later that day in unthinkable circumstances, and Tom never got to meet the daughter he had longed for.

On Tuesday, almost a year to the day of Tom’s tragic death, the inquest began at Stockport Coroner’s Court. Tom was typically ‘extremely fit’ and healthy, with an active job as a carpenter, but the court heard how Tom had been suffering from a stomach bug from May 18, 2023.

Tom, from Stretford, had symptoms of diarrhoea and stomach ache, and had tried to seek help through his local GP surgery. The advice was to take Dioralyte, but the problems persisted for days.

On May 27, Tom had woken up feeling ‘extremely unwell’, heard the court. Tom was taken to A&E by his brother and arrived at Wythenshawe Hospital at around 8am.

The 40-year-old spent the next 12 hours in the hospital, having blood tests, receiving IV treatment – and getting two echocardiograms (ECGs) which examined his heart.

Rebecca with baby Harper
Tom was excited to welcome their first child into the world

Tom was sent home from A&E that evening, being told by doctors that he had a Campylobacter infection, the cause of his gastroenteritis illness which would likely resolve itself given that he was an otherwise fit and healthy young man.

But the court heard how the two ECG tests, one taken in the morning and another in the afternoon, came back with results showing major abnormalities to Tom’s heart – including that he had a ‘complete heart block’, which can pave the way for sudden cardiac death.

The ECG results had been inspected by a number of doctors in the hospital, but the block was missed. A junior doctor initially saw ‘abnormalities’ and asked a more senior doctor, Dr Thomas Bull, about the second ECG.

Dr Tom Bull identified a type of heart block on the second ECG, but deemed that it was not a block of ‘clinical significance’. The clinicians determined that, in the absence of any other worrying cardiac symptoms, ‘no further investigation was needed’ nor hospital admission as the abnormality was 'not uncommon' in a fit man in his 40s.

It has been almost a year to the day since Tom's death
Rebecca with baby Harper -Credit:MEN

A Wythenshawe Hospital consultant said the ECG results — particularly on the second ECG — were ‘not classical heart block’ results, explaining that they were ‘easily misinterpreted as normal’ even by ‘fairly senior doctors’.

“It’s quite shocking that an ECG has been misinterpreted by three people,” Dr Matthew Thornber told the court, saying that staff have been left shaken by the horrific case, and investigating how the signs were missed.

“There were clues but it was relatively difficult data to interpret, that’s a fundamental root cause of Mr Gibson’s unfortunate death.”

Despite the difficulty of assessing the ECG results, the consultant added it was a ‘triple missed opportunity’: “I think we’ve failed… because he shouldn’t have been discharged. It wasn’t easy but the information was still there.”

Ten days later, Tom and Rebecca went back to their GP and had a face-to-face appointment, where Tom was so unwell that he became tearful. He was prescribed antibiotics and told that they should take effect within two doses. Tom and Rebecca decided that he should sleep on the sofa in a bid to ensure he did not pass his illness to Rebecca just hours before she was to go into hospital for a planned Caesarean section to give birth to their baby.

The next morning, Tom was found dead by his heavily pregnant partner. Rebecca continued: “My mum arrived at about 6am as previously planned to take me into hospital for the caesarean section. She has told me she saw the ambulances outside the house and presumed they were there for me. The paramedics called ahead to Wythenshawe Hospital to say that I would be in shortly for a caesarean section, and asked for me to have privacy.”

Rebecca’s brother rushed to the house to stay with the police and ‘provided them with contact details for Tom’s family so they could be informed by their family liaison officer’, Rebecca added. “It only dawned on me that this hadn’t happened when I received an excited text from Tom’s brother Nicky later that day, wishing Tom and I luck for Harper’s birth,” she explained. “After I realised this, I asked Neil to let Tom’s family know what had happened. I feel Tom’s family were let down here.”

Tom’s medical cause of death was given in court as sudden cardiac death by consultant pathologist Dr Michael Scott.

The young family has been left lost without Tom
It has been almost a year to the day since Tom's death -Credit:MEN

Rebecca told the court: “Harper will celebrate her first birthday on Friday, June 6, 2024 – and her dad won’t be there. He won’t be there for any of her birthdays. He won’t ever be there on Christmas morning, and he won’t be there on Father’s Day. Harper will instead visit her dad’s grave when she’s old enough to understand.

“Tom will never get to push her on a swing or teach her how to ride a bike – when I was pregnant these are the things he told me he was looking forward to the most. We had so many plans for the future together.”

Tom’s widow, Rebecca, described the family’s loss to the court, saying: “Tom’s passing leaves a huge hole in all of our lives. He wasn’t just my partner; he was my best friend as well and I consider myself lucky to have met him and had the time with him I have.

“But I won’t ever get over him not being here anymore. I still look out of the window at 5pm expecting to see him riding up the road on his red mountain bike wearing his hi-vis work gear.

“I’m convinced Tom was put on this earth to make me happy and to be the best dad to Harper which I know he would have been. It’s now my job to make sure that Harper knows all about her dad, hears all of the funny stories and knows what a wonderful and positive person he was. We say good night to his picture every night before bed and she has a quilt which has been made from his favourite jumpers.

“Tom will live on through his daughter but that doesn’t change the fact that he should still be here with us today. Tom would want lessons to be learned from his death so that something like this is prevented from happening again. He wouldn’t wish the last 12 months on any family, especially not his own.

“Tom spent his whole life helping everyone around him - but when he needed something; the people who were supposed to help him have completely let him down.”

Proceedings continue tomorrow.

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