A two-year-old boy who suffered with a heart condition died after he “suddenly and unexpectedly deteriorated” at his home, an inquest heard.
A hearing at Pontypridd Coroners’ Court on Wednesday was told Blake Llewellyn, two, had a congenital heart disease.
In the weeks leading up to his death on January 24, 2019, Blake was said to have been unwell and his parents said he had grown lethargic.
At the hearing Blake’s father Geraint Llewellyn said his son was “off his food for weeks” after he started to show signs of feeling unwell from around the end of October 2018. He told the hearing even if there was a day where his son would start to feel better he would later start to feel much worse again.
Mr Llewellyn said: “This was going on for a while. We could see him deteriorate. He suffered with a cold. It was seeming to get worse.”
Due to Blake’s health conditions the hearing was told he had previously been treated in Bristol and Cardiff as well as at Prince Charles Hospital.
At the hearing Mr Llewellyn said the hospitals were “really busy” and the family “didn’t want to put pressure on them” when they were told his son had a viral infection. He said he wishes he had “pushed them a bit more now”.
Speaking about the final days of his son’s life Mr Llewellyn said: “A few days before he was gradually deteriorating. We took him in desperation. We were told it was a viral infection. The last few days, looking back, he was gradually deteriorating very fast.
“He was getting treated like a normal child. He wasn’t a normal child – he had complex conditions.”
Mr Llewellyn said he “trusted their advice” and trusted staff were advising the family to the best of their abilities when Blake was discharged. Mr Llewellyn added: “He was really ill – lethargic and white. He was just ill. He must have been ill because he passed away.”
Blake’s mother, Nicola Llewellyn, told the hearing her son wanted to be with her all the time in the hours leading up to his death.
She said they left Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil hospital at around 3pm on January 23, 2019, and then went back to their home in Ty Coch, Rhymney. It was also said they used a throat spray they had been given for Blake when they arrived home.
After Blake had the spray Mrs Llewellyn said he was “vomiting continuously” and also became “really thirsty”. By around 3am the following day Blake had stopped breathing and emergency services were called.
He was taken back to Prince Charles Hospital where doctors tried to save him but he was pronounced dead at 5.05am.
Dr Spandana Pasupuleti, who clinically assessed Blake at the hospital on January 23, 2019, also gave evidence at the hearing. She told the coroner on the day Blake came to the hospital she was aware of his medical history.
“Blake was alert and I checked his chest,” she said. “There was no increased heart rate and no increased respiratory rate. I checked his throat and it was red in colour.”
Dr Pasupuleti, who works as a registrar in paediatrics, told the hearing she diagnosed a viral infection with the possibility of a bacterial infection. She said she prescribed a throat spray as well as some antibiotics.
Based on the clinical assessment at the time Dr Pasupuleti said she discharged him after observing him for two hours and ensuring his wellbeing.
“I was aware of Blake’s complex cardiac history,” she said. “I had done my clinical assessment. I made the decision to discharge him with 24-hour open access. With any worsening signs they could bring him back. I took a detailed history and examined thoroughly.”
Dr David Deekollu also provided evidence. Although he didn’t treat Blake on January 23, 2019, he knew the infant and shared some insight in regards to his condition.
At the hearing he emphasised the importance of patients like Blake having the ability to have open access, as their conditions can change so quickly.
He said: “Children like Blake can be well for a few hours and then the symptoms can worsen and they can become unwell.”
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Before the coroner retired to reach his conclusion Mr Llewellyn told the hearing he didn’t blame anyone for what happened but said he thought more could have been done to prevent it. He told the coroner: “It was left too long. No-one is responsible but more should have been done.”
Coroner Graeme Hughes accepted the medical cause of death provided by pathologist Dr Andrew Bamber while making his conclusion. The cause of death was recorded as a viral respiratory tract infection in a two-year-old with congenital heart disease (operated).
Mr Hughes said there were “a cluster of visits” to the A&E department and in particular to the paediatric department in Merthyr Tydfil where there was evidence of these visits.
“However I do note more instances in March 2017,” he said. “And between November 2017 and January 2018.”
Mr Hughes continued: “On these occasions Blake attended the paediatric unit and was treated and discharged. He suddenly and unexpectedly deteriorated in the early hours of January 24.
“On all the evidence I have heard today I’m satisfied the only conclusion is one of natural causes.”