Sheffield baby who died on Christmas Eve had vitamin D deficiency

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The sudden death of a six-month-old boy in Sheffield on Christmas Eve could have been partly down to a vitamin D deficiency, an inquest heard.

Tom Houghton and Carly Bonaito's fourth child, Louie Houghton died after being found unresponsive in his cot at about 9am on December 24 last year.

An inquest into his death was opened at Sheffield Coroner's Court in March and resumed today, Tuesday, May 18, with testimony from Professor Marta Cohen.

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Professor Cohen is the consultant paediatric and perinatal pathologist and head of department at Sheffield Children's Hospital, where Louie was pronounced dead.

Louie Houghton died on Christmas Eve last year, aged just six monthsLouie Houghton died on Christmas Eve last year, aged just six months
Louie Houghton died on Christmas Eve last year, aged just six months

She said although her findings based on the post-mortem conducted were not conclusive, a possible risk factor was the deficiency of vitamin D.

She explained: "I noticed there was no trauma and he was well looked after. His X-ray was clear...but I noticed his ribs were very weak.

"So I measured (the level) of vitamin D and it was very low. So possibly, (this was inherited) by his mum or his siblings who might have had Vitamin D deficiency as well.

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"Under the microscope, there was nothing significant except there was a previous viral infection in the lung but vitamin D deficiency in the ribs."

Professor Cohen explained further that babies aged between six months and 12 months were more vulnerable to sudden deaths if they were exposed to such factors.

She said: "Given his age, vitamin D in his hormone helps him with the immune system to fight the infection and to make the bones strong.

"Vitamin D in the body does not come through the elements of food but exposure of our skin to sunshine.

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"But since we are in the northern hemisphere and it was winter, it was not possible to get it through the sunshine, because there was not enough sunshine.

"So possibly, given his age, it could have come from his mum initially then he was never supplemented and I think that's what made vitamin D low in the body that made his bones weak.

"It is also possible that the mum had a vitamin D deficiency and passed it on to him during pregnancy and he never had time to catch up because it was winter.

"I am not saying that this is what caused his death but it’s just that this finding is quite common in babies who died unexpectedly and suddenly.”

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The infant, who gave the devastated Woodhouse pair 'unimaginable joy’ during lockdown following his June birth, was discovered by mum Carly as she went to feed him.

It was reported that Carly had settled baby Louie after he began crying at about 6.30am.

However, when she later went to feed him he could not be woken.

Louie’s dad Tom, an ambulance driver, started CPR on his son straight away.

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Paramedics continued to try and resuscitate Louie as they rushed him to the hospital, where he was sadly pronounced dead.

Following Louie’s death, a fundraising appeal was also launched on behalf of the family.

Assistant Coroner Abigail Combes adjourned the hearing until July 16 to look further into additional support the family had received or should have received from the council after Louie's birth.

The inquest was attended by Louie’s parents and grandparents.