Death of 3-month-old baby who choked while being fed by father ruled a misadventure

The death of three-month-old Reyhana Qailah Mohamad Shiddiq has been ruled a misadventure. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The father of a three-month-old baby was so engrossed in a mobile phone game that he continued playing it while also feeding his child from a milk bottle with one hand.

But the baby, Reyhana Qailah Mohamad Shiddiq became unresponsive after a brief struggle - kicking her legs, moving her hands, pushing the bottle away with her tongue, and crying.

Efforts to resuscitate the infant were unsuccessful and she died on Oct 12 last year, just five weeks after she had been discharged from hospital from a broken skull. Her father Mohamed Shiddiq Sazali, 27, had accidentally dropped her in August.

  • Father speaks up

  • On the day of the coroner's inquiry on July 12, Mr Mohamed Shiddiq Sazali, 27, went to his Facebook page to share his grief on losing his daughter Reyhana.

    Below are excerpts of what Mr Shiddiq wrote in Malay:

    "You want to tell the whole world that I don't know how to take care (of children). But in this situation, I did not intentionally do that (to her).

    "I loved her like how others loved her too. But I loved her more than the love given by others. In this world, who doesn't love his own child?

    "I deliver cargo for a living. When I'm in the lorry, I see families with their babies walking together and I feel sad. I almost tear, nobody knows what my heart feels. I just have to endure. God, please give me strength."

Yesterday, State Coroner Marvin Bay found Reyhana's death to be "a truly tragic misadventure".

Said Mr Bay: "I find it highly probable that Reyhana's demise is causally linked to Mr Shiddiq's utterly irresponsible and reckless manner of feeding her.

"His inattention to her struggles and resistance to drinking essentially amounted to forced bottle feeding of a very young baby, which induced her to choke on her milk and suffer a cardio-respiratory collapse."

The coroner said the case underscores the need for parents and caregivers to give their undivided and scrupulous attention to infants in their care.

"Distractions such as mobile phones also have no place when feeding of a baby is undertaken.

"It is particularly important to exercise patience and care in feeding, with constant monitoring of the baby's face to assess the infant's expression and response to the milk or formula proferred. On no account should milk be force on a struggling or resistant child," added Mr Bay.

The coroner's inquiry had earlier heard that Reyhana was born normally on June 28 last year. On Aug 9, she was taken to hospital as she had blood in her vomit. She was discharged after eight hours, against medical advice, as her mother Nurraishah Mahzan, 31, wanted her home.

On Aug 26, Ms Nurraishah found Reyhana crying non-stop. At KK Women's and Children's Hospital, she learnt Reyhana had a fractured skull. The hospital told the police and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) of the case.

A child protection officer came up with a plan for Reyhana to be supervised by at least two adults, if she was under the family's care.

  • Timeline

  • June 28, 2015: Reyhana Qailah Mohamad Shiddiq is born.

    Aug 9: Reyhana put under observation for eight hours at KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) after she vomits blood. No abnormality is observed after she is discharged.

    Aug 26: Reyhana's father Mohamed Shiddiq Sazali accidentally drops her at a void deck in Buangkok Crescent. She is warded at KKH after she is found to have a fractured skull.

    Sept 9: Reyhana is discharged only after her mother Nurraishah Mahzan agrees to a condition that Reyhana must be accompanied by two adults at all times.

Reyhana returned home from the hospital on Sept 9, after her parents signed a safety undertaking with MSF.

On Oct 12, Ms Nurraishah left home at about 10.20am for a drug supervision test, having fed and burped her baby, who drank about half of the milk in her bottle. She passed Reyhana to Mr Shiddiq and told him to burp her properly.

He later fed the infant, while seated with his legs crossed. But she did not want to drink and cried for about two minutes before becoming unresponsive.

He put her on the bed and patted her back. Ms Nurraishah's father, Mr Mahzan Ahmad, 57, returned home and found her not breathing, but with a pulse. He started cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with chest compressions.

Ms Nurraishah got a text message from Mr Shiddiq and took a taxi home, where she did CPR until police and paramedics arrived.

After Reyhana's death, police investigators did a lie-detector test on Ms Nurraishah, Mr Shiddiq and Mr Mahzan.

Mr Shiddiq failed the test and admitted dropping the baby on Aug 26. He was carrying her at the void deck of a HDB block while playing with his mobile phone, when he saw her pacifier on the ground and tried to pick it up. She fell and the back of her head hit the ground.

After her death, a forensic pathologist found that three of her ribs were also broken about one to two weeks before her death. The fractures remain unexplained.

Coroner Bay said he found no basis to suspect foul play in the baby's death.

He said: "Reyhana suffered a distressing succession of traumatic injuries in the course of her tragically short life of three months and 14 days. This is a case where her father Mr Shiddiq appeared to be the principal actor in two of these instances, with the police not able to establish the source of the third injury, specifically the partially healed fractures on the right third to fifth ribs, which likely occurred one to two weeks before her death."

"Quite distinct from the manner that Mr Shiddiq's manner of feeding his child might be regarded as egregiously reckless or neglectful, the investigation has not uncovered evidence of any deliberate intent by her father to harm Reyhana in the sequences of event preceding her death on Oct 12, 2015," the coroner added.

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