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Mum-to-be collapsed and died at 39 weeks from rare condition


Coombe Womens Hospital

Coombe Womens Hospital

Coombe Womens Hospital

A woman who was 39 weeks' pregnant collapsed and died from an extremely rare condition for which no cause is known, an inquest heard.

Shannon Burke (20), of School Street Flats, Dublin 8, and her baby boy died following "a cascade of events" believed to have been triggered by amniotic fluid entering her bloodstream.

Ms Burke went to the Coombe Hospital the day before her death complaining of stomach pains, Dublin Coroner's Court heard.


She was admitted and fully examined. The baby's heart rate was reassuring and she was discharged, the court heard.

In the early hours of January 14, 2014, Ms Burke's partner Patrick Davis found her unresponsive in their bed and called emergency services.

Paramedics began resuscitation and she was rushed to the operating theatre at the Coombe Hospital. Her baby boy was resuscitated at birth but later died.

Ms Burke was haemorrhaging and was transferred to St James's Hospital where a laparotomy was performed in a bid to identify the source of bleeding, but no cause was found.

The cause of death was cardiac respiratory collapse and disseminated intravascular coagulopathy due to amniotic fluid embolism (AFE) syndrome at 39 weeks plus three days gestation, a post-mortem found.

Pathologist Dr Siobhan Nicholson said amniotic fluid had escaped into the bloodstream, triggering the widespread activation of blood clotting.

"This cascade of events best supports a diagnosis of AFE. It is an extraordinarily rare, catastrophic and unpredictable event for which there is no definitive cause," Dr Nicholson said.

"It's likely to have been something very sudden that happened in the middle of the night."

Consultant obstetrician at the Coombe Hospital Dr Tom D'Arcy said he had never experienced AFE before.

Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane returned a verdict of death due to natural causes and sympathised with the woman's mother, brother and aunt who were present in court.

"It's very difficult for you. That was such a tragic occurrence for the family, to lose a young girl in those circumstances," she said.