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Parents pay tribute to their “unique, endearing, loving and inquisitive” son on the first anniversary of the nine-year-old’s death from sepsis

A year after the death of Dylan Cope from septic shock his devastated parents are warning others to be aware of the condition and the “frightening speed” at which it can progress, particularly in children who, unlike adults, can often compensate but then rapidly deteriorate.

Posted on 13 December 2023

Dylan Cope, of Newport, died on 14 December 2022, four days after being diagnosed with a ruptured appendix and sepsis.

He was taken to A&E at Grange University Hospital (GUH), Cwmbran, on 6 December on the advice of his GP who suspected appendicitis.

At hospital Dylan was diagnosed with flu and was discharged in the early hours of 7 December with medication and a ‘coughs and colds in children’ advice sheet. However, several days later Dylan’s condition still had not improved.

His parents called GUH A&E and NHS 111 but, while waiting for a 111 call back, Dylan’s condition deteriorated so his father, Laurence, took him back to A&E on 10 December. Dylan was transferred to University Hospital of Wales Institute Cardiff (UHWIC) and had an appendectomy but died in hospital on 14 December.

Prior to his death, Dylan was a fit and healthy young boy, and his parents say he was looking forward to his 10th birthday in the coming months and “turning into double digits”.

Dylan Cope
Image of Dylan Cope

They described Dylan as very unique, loving and inquisitive with a quirky sense of humour. He enjoyed playing with Lego and Rubik’s cubes and learning about science, coding, and had ambitions of becoming a computer programmer.

Corinne and Laurence Cope want to prevent any other families suffering the same agony as theirs during the winter months when people are at their most vulnerable to viruses and infections. They want to raise awareness of appendicitis and also the symptoms of sepsis.

Sepsis is a reaction to an infection and happens when the immune system overreacts and starts to damage the body’s own tissues and organs. Symptoms can be like those of flu and include severe breathlessness and a high fever.

According to the National Institutes of Health, severe sepsis is 35 percent more common in winter months than it is summer.

Since Dylan’s death, his family has raised money for charities including Sepsis Trust and Sepsis Research FEAT.

Dylan’s parents said:

“Dylan was such a unique character and lovely blend of feisty and sensitive. He saw the beauty of life but also the injustice and was quick to make his views known. His strength of character and fierce independence balanced with his softer, endearing, sensitive side were traits that made him rather unique.

“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 and we are now facing another Christmas without him.

“Since Dylan’s death, our lives have become unrecognisable. We are filled with grief and shock that our little boy was taken so soon and in this way. There is no doubt that Dylan would have grown up to do some very interesting things in his life, but we have been denied the opportunity of watching our son grow into a man and experiencing the joys of life with him. Moreover, we are truly heartbroken for Dylan, that he will never get to experience the joys of life and the hopes and dreams he had. We are no strangers to grief, but this is pain on the deepest level possible that no-one can truly understand unless they too have experienced the death of their child. Our hearts ache for Dylan every millisecond and everything we see and do is through his eyes. Dylan’s absence is and will continue to be the undercurrent of our days until our final breath.

Dylan Cope
Image of Dylan Cope

“We have been told sepsis in children is ‘very rare’; tragically we know Dylan is one of many to lose their life to this brutal killer. There is much good work being done to help prevent deaths from sepsis and also improve outcomes for those recovering from sepsis but still a way to go. We urge parents to always trust your instincts over anything else with your child; despite what you are told, if you feel something isn’t ‘right’ it probably isn’t and be mindful that time may not be on your side. Trust your instincts over anything else and seek urgent help.

“There are some staff we never got to thank personally at the time. Obviously, we want nothing more than to be in the position to say we owe Dylan’s life to them but tragically, we are not. What we do owe them is our sincere thanks for doing their utmost to save him. The surgeons and theatre staff at UWIC and PICU staff who cared for Dylan in his final days worked tirelessly with every ounce of their professionalism and compassion evident and for that we are grateful.”

Dr Ron Daniels, Founder and Joint CEO of UK Sepsis Trust, said:

"It's every parent's worst nightmare to lose a child and to look ahead to a lifetime of grief – Dylan reminds us that sepsis can strike any child at any time. The UK Sepsis Trust is on a mission to empower parents to "just ask; could it be sepsis?" if their child is deteriorating in the context of an infection and to encourage health professionals to listen parents know their child better than anyone."

A pre-inquest hearing was held at Gwent Coroner's Court in Newport on Wednesday, October 4. The inquest into Dylan’s death is expected to last four days and will take place between March and June 2024 on a date to be decided.

While awaiting the inquest, Corinne and Laurence have campaigned to improve outcomes and experiences for patients and other families including approaching ABUHB and the Welsh Government to request improvements in sepsis awareness for both paediatric and adult patients who are discharged with a viral or bacterial diagnosis and are therefore at increased risk of developing sepsis.

ABUHB have now included a Sepsis Trust QR code on paediatric safety sheets and have confirmed Welsh Government are currently working with the Sepsis Trust to produce a sepsis leaflet that will be disseminated widely for use across Wales.

Dylan’s parents are represented by Firdous Ibrahim from law firm Leigh Day.  All media inquiries should be directed to pressoffice@leighday.co.uk or by calling 07919 514456.

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Firdous Ibrahim
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Firdous Ibrahim

Firdous Ibrahim is an associate solicitor in the medical negligence department.

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