Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Stressed-out teen died as she cared for her fake baby

A 16-year-old girl, who suffered from a heart condition, died after becoming stressed caring for a fake baby as part of a college course, her father has said.

Danielle Pilot recorded in her log book that the model baby had woken her every hour of the night as she looked after it for her child development course.

The dolls are designed to give young people an experience of what looking after a real baby would be like, by crying at intervals throughout the day and night.

Danielle’s father, David Pilot, noticed that she appeared pale and stressed and her heart was racing the following morning.

He called her college, Northbrook College in Worthing, West Sussex, to inform officials that she could not continue with the project, after looking after the doll for 12 hours, and returned it.

The teenager continued to complain of extreme tiredness throughout that day, December 5 last year, and fell asleep at the family home in Worthing at around lunchtime.

When Mr Pilot returned home at about 1pm, he found Danielle was cold and pale. She was taken to Worthing Hospital but was declared dead on arrival.

Mr Pilot said: “She was like any person who had just become a new mother and been looking after a baby for a long time. But at the end of the day we don’t know for certain whether that caused her death.

“It could have done but we simply don’t know for certain. It could have happened at any time, it could have happened if she was kayaking down a river at some point.”

An inquest into Danielle’s death, held on Monday, heard that stress from looking after the doll could have worsened her condition but that it would be “speculative” to conclude it was a definite cause.

It also heard that her death could have been triggered at any time because of her condition.

Her cause of death was given as fatal arrhythmia and West Sussex coroner Penelope Schofield recorded a verdict of death from natural causes as a result of arrhythmia.

Danielle had suffered a rare congenital problem since birth, which meant her heart was on the wrong side of her chest, back to front and had two holes in the pumping chamber.

In a statement, Northbrook College said: “Danielle’s tragic death was a shock to the college and a matter of great sadness for us. She was on an early years course which prepares people for work in the care of young children.

“Part of the course for all students is familiarisation with caring for a baby, and students take a ‘simulated baby’ home to care for overnight. This is issued with instructions and parents are asked to consent to its use. Students are also given access to advice outside normal hours if they have concerns. Danielle’s death and its causes are matters for the inquest, and the college will of course assist the coroner’s inquiries if asked.”

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