Family’s tribute to Poppy after she dies of rare condition

HAPPY Poppy Pilcher
HAPPY Poppy Pilcher
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GRIEVING parents have spoken of their heartbreak after their seven-year-old daughter died of a rare brain condition.

Poppy Pilcher stopped breathing at her home in Swanwick Lane, Swanwick, on the morning of March 3 last year.

Her dad Tony put her to bed the night before.

Poppy was taken to Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham, but medics were unable to revive her.

An inquest at Portsmouth Guildhall yesterday heard that Poppy died because she developed pontocerebellar hypoplasia eight weeks after she was born at Princess Anne Hospital, Southampton.

The condition affects brain development and damages the parts of it which control breathing.

Karen Harrold, assistant deputy coroner for Portsmouth and south- east Hampshire, concluded Poppy died of natural causes.

‘Poppy was a seven-year-old child and suffered from a rare brain condition,’ she said.

‘I am told that the most common cause of death with this condition is that they stop breathing. Therefore the only conclusion is that her death was as a result of natural causes.’

A report by Dr Darren Fowler, a pathologist at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, said Poppy was a well cared-for child.

Dr Vivian Ding, a GP at Bursledon Surgery, added that Poppy had visited her for regular check-ups over a five-year period.

She said that despite Poppy’s condition, which meant she couldn’t talk or move properly, she had shown signs of improvement during her last visit on November 24, 2011.

And in her report Dr Ding said that ‘she had never seen a family that had shown as much love and care for their children as Poppy’s’.

Dr Joanna Walker, a consultant paediatrician at QA Hospital, said Poppy, who attended St Francis Special School, in Fareham, had been well in the days leading up to her death.

‘Her parents had no due concerns and they were allowing her to have lie-ins at the weekend,’ she said.

‘However, at the hospital there were no signs of life and we were unable to resuscitate Poppy.’

Detective Constable Kate Chapman, who works for a public protection unit in Havant, worked closely with Poppy’s family and said the little girl had been happy on the day before she died.

Paying tribute to Poppy afterwards, Mr Pilcher, 39, who lives with his wife Suzanne, 36, and their remaining children Mia, 11, and Oliver, 19 months, said: ‘Poppy was a living light in our lives.

‘Though she had her problems she was such a happy, gorgeous little girl.

‘She will be dearly missed. Her passing came as a massive shock to us.

‘We’ve just got to keep our chins up and get on with life. Poppy couldn’t communicate or speak but you could tell by her facial expressions how she was feeling.

‘You knew when she was happy or cross. She was very resilient and she went through a lot in her short life.’

Addressing Mr Pilcher, Mrs Harrold said: ‘You obviously loved and cared for Poppy very deeply.

‘Please appreciate my condolences to yourself and your family.’


THE family of Poppy Pilcher said they only discovered the full extent of her condition in the months after she died.

Addressing Karen Harrold, assistant deputy coroner for Portsmouth and south-east Hampshire, at yesterday’s inquest, Poppy’s dad Tony Pilcher said he didn’t know much about his daughter’s condition when she was alive.

‘A lot of what we know now is what we didn’t know when she was alive,’ he said.

The inquest heard how it was only in the last year that health workers in Holland discovered pontocerebellar hypoplasia was caused by an abnormality in a gene.

Dr Darren Fowler said: ‘The diagnosis was only confirmed after her passing. We weren’t aware of the full extent of her condition. Studies have been done overseas to eradicate this.’