Tragic boy, 9, dies days after being sent home from A&E with suspected flu

Dylan was initially told he had a suspected flu.
Dylan was initially told he had a suspected flu. -Credit:Hand out

A nine-year-old boy was sent home from hospital with suspected flu just days before he died after being diagnosed with a ruptured appendix, an inquest has heard.

Tragic Dylan Cope died on December 14, 2022, just one week after he was taken to A&E by his parents when he complained of abdominal pain.

An inquest at Gwent Coroner's Court on Monday, May 20 heard that Dylan, from Newport, was a "fit and healthy" young boy before taking unwell, in early December 2022 with abdominal pain and vomiting.

A statement read on behalf of Dylan's father Laurence said Dylan was "feisty and sensitive" and enjoyed baking with his mother, wrestling with his brother and bouncing on the trampoline. He was described as "loving" and a boy who "nothing delighted more than hearing Alexa say 'free hugs available in the lounge'" when he would eagerly run in to get one from one of his family, reports Wales Online.

Dylan's dad said his son had a "quirky sense of humour" and enjoyed learning computer coding and science at school.

He enjoyed building Lego and was a "problem solver" who his dad said would regularly find answers to things such as solving a Rubik's cube by looking it up or watching videos on YouTube.

He said: "On the day we were meant to be proudly watching Dylan in his school Christmas play dressed as a little reindeer, instead we watched him dying."

The inquest heard Dylan had been unwell on December 2 and vomited but by December 4 had returned to normal other than having a mild cough.

The boy was not sent to school as as his parents were worried about him passing on any illness or picking up something like Strep A.

On December 6 he still had a cough and had lower abdominal pain, and was given some Calpol and ate lunch as normal. However, later that day he complained of "excruciating" abdominal pain and was brought to his GP who noted he had stiffness in his lower abdomen, known as guarding, and which is a sign of an inflamed appendix. His GP referred him to Grange Hospital's emergency department and he was brought there by his parents.

That night at the A&E Dylan was triaged and assessed by a practitioner who said his symptoms were a "mystery."

The child had a nose swab taken and a urine test, and he tested positive for influenza.

A male medic later visited the family and stated that it was "highly unlikely" Dylan had appendix issues as he had complained about the pain being worse on his left side, the opposite side to where the appendix is located.

Dylan Cope tragically passed away on December 14, 2022.
Dylan Cope tragically passed away on December 14, 2022. -Credit:Hand out

Dylan was discharged after 1am on December 7, 2022 with a cough and cold advice sheet and his dad was informed he should give Dylan Calpol, allow him to rest and that he would start to notice improvements in the coming days.

However, Dylan's symptoms did not improve and he complained of intermittent abdominal pain, was too unwell to attend school and was not eating.

On December 10, 2022 Dylan's family were concerned that he was not improving and called the emergency number given to them when they left hospital. At 11.41am they got through at the 19th attempt and were told to call the NHS 111 number.

Dylan's dad rang 111 and while he was waiting on hold he noticed Dylan was breathing more quickly. He was on the phone waiting for over two hours for an answer before getting through at 2.45pm. He said his son had cold hands and feet and was told by the call handler that a doctor would call them back.

However, by that stage Dylan was complaining of pain in his legs and the parents decided to take him to A&E. Laurence drove him there while Dylan's mother Corrine followed on after arranging childcare for their two other children, and they arrived at the Grange Hospital at 4.10pm.

He was transferred to the University Hospital of Wales where he underwent an appendectomy. Sadly, he died just four days later on December 14.

A medical cause of death was initially given as septic shock with multi-organ dysfunction caused by a perforated appendix.

Samantha Hayden, a paediatric nurse practitioner, told the inquest she carried out an assessment of the boy in the Grange at around 10pm on December 6, 2022, including taking a nose swab.

Hayden said she did not consult the GP referral made for Dylan before doing the assessment, adding that this would have been a "guide" but that the hospital was "exceptionally busy" that night and that the computers where this could have been reviewed were in rooms already occupied by patients, and that she felt it more important to have Dylan assessed.

Dylan was a fit young boy before he took unwell.
Dylan was a healthy young boy before he took unwell. -Credit:Hand out

She said she "doesn't recall" asking Dylan or his dad how severe the abdominal pain was but noted he had expressed several times that the pain was worst on the left side.

She said he had swollen lymph nodes and congestion in his throat and that his symptoms were a "mixed bag" which indicated a number of possible causes including flu, appenditicis and peritonitis, noting that tests for influenza had come back positive.

Asked by senior coroner Caroline Saunders why she did not include any mention of pain in Dylan's lower right abdomen in her statement, she said: "I'm not sure."

Asked whether it would have changed her view about potential appendicitis if she had read the GP referral which mentioned guarding on the abdomen, a symptom of an inflamed appendix, she said it would not as she was already considering appendicitis as a possibility along with other potential causes.

Hayden confirmed she did not request a blood test due to the "number of differentials" in symptoms she was dealing with, adding that she had discussed with Dylan's father a number of possible reasons for why he was unwell.

She said a senior review was planned for another healthcare professional to carry out on Dylan, and confirmed that she later completed a discharge summary before this senior review took place.

Ms Saunders put it to her that this indicated she had "already made up her mind" about what was wrong with Dylan, but Hayden said these summaries were "pre-empted" and later reiterated that the fact a senior review was happening would not be something she would have to include. The inquest continues.

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