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Nine-year-old boy died days after being sent home from A&E

A NINE-YEAR-OLD boy, Dylan Cope, was sent home from A&E with suspected flu just days before he tragically died from a ruptured appendix, an inquest has heard. Dylan passed away on 14 December 2022, a week after his parents took him to A&E due to severe abdominal pain.

During an inquest at Gwent Coroner’s Court on Monday, 20 May, it was revealed that Dylan, from Newport, was a “fit and healthy” child before he fell ill in early December 2022. He experienced abdominal pain and vomiting, which prompted his visit to the hospital.

A statement read on behalf of Dylan’s father, Laurence, described Dylan as “feisty and sensitive.” He enjoyed baking with his mother, wrestling with his brother, and bouncing on the trampoline. Dylan was portrayed as a “loving” boy who was delighted by the simple joy of hearing Alexa announce, “free hugs available in the lounge,” prompting him to eagerly run for a family embrace.

Laurence further described his son as having a “quirky sense of humour” and a passion for computer coding and science. Dylan enjoyed building Lego and was a “problem solver,” often finding solutions to puzzles like the Rubik’s cube by researching online. Laurence poignantly recalled: “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 that Dylan had been unwell on 2 December and had vomited. By 4 December, he had mostly recovered, except for a mild cough. He did not attend school as his parents were worried about him spreading or contracting illnesses, such as Strep A. On 6 December, Dylan still had a cough and lower abdominal pain, but after taking Calpol and eating lunch, he later complained of “excruciating” abdominal pain. His GP observed stiffness in his lower abdomen, a sign of an inflamed appendix, and referred him to Grange Hospital’s emergency department.

That night in A&E, Dylan was triaged and assessed by a practitioner who found his symptoms puzzling. Tests revealed he had influenza. A male medic told the family it was “highly unlikely” Dylan had appendicitis because his pain was on the left side, opposite to where the appendix is located. Dylan was discharged after 1am on 7 December 2022 with advice to manage his symptoms with Calpol and rest.

Despite this, Dylan’s condition did not improve. He continued to experience intermittent abdominal pain, was unable to attend school, and lost his appetite. On 10 December 2022, concerned about his lack of improvement, Dylan’s family called the emergency number provided by the hospital. After 19 attempts, they were instructed to call NHS 111.

Laurence called 111 and, while on hold, noticed Dylan’s rapid breathing. After over two hours, they finally got through and were told a doctor would call back. However, Dylan began experiencing leg pain, prompting his parents to take him to A&E. Laurence drove him to the Grange Hospital, with Dylan’s mother Corrine following after arranging childcare for their other children. Dylan arrived at 4:10pm and was later transferred to the University Hospital of Wales, where he underwent an appendectomy. Sadly, he died four days later on 14 December. The initial medical cause of death was septic shock with multi-organ dysfunction caused by a perforated appendix.

Samantha Hayden, a paediatric nurse practitioner, testified that she assessed Dylan at Grange Hospital around 10pm on 6 December 2022. She took a nose swab but did not consult the GP referral, citing the hospital’s busyness and limited computer access. She did not recall asking about the severity of Dylan’s abdominal pain but noted he reported pain predominantly on the left side. Despite considering appendicitis among other possibilities, she did not request a blood test due to the variety of symptoms presented.

Hayden mentioned a planned senior review for Dylan, but she completed a discharge summary before it occurred. When questioned by senior coroner Caroline Saunders, Hayden stated that completing summaries in advance was common practice and did not imply a final diagnosis.

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Peter Bassett, a staff nurse on duty that night, testified that he was informed after midnight that Dylan could be discharged. He provided Dylan’s father with a discharge number and documents explaining Dylan’s flu symptoms, recommending food, drink, and sugar to aid recovery. Bassett recalled advising that if Dylan’s abdominal pain persisted or worsened, they should return to the hospital.