Tragic Sunderland dad died due to complications of bone marrow transplant, inquest hears

A Sunderland dad, who was fighting a rare and aggressive leukemia, tragically died due to complications from a bone marrow transplant which doctors had hoped would give him a ‘long and fulfilling life’, an inquest has heard.

Friday, 14th May 2021, 4:30 pm

‘Family man’ Daniel Turnbull was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the start of 2020 after being admitted to Sunderland Royal Hospital following two trips to its emergency department with severe back pain.

An inquest into the 29-year-old dad’s death, held at Newcastle Coroner’s Court, heard how the ‘caring and funny’ dad was admitted to the ward to help manage the pain after originally being sent home with pain relief for suspected sciatica the day before.

But after spiking a fever, blood tests were taken and bone marrow biopsy confirmed Dan had leukemia.

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Dan, who played for Houghton Rugby Club, died after suffering complications following a bone marrow transplant.
Dan, who played for Houghton Rugby Club, died after suffering complications following a bone marrow transplant.

He began chemotherapy-led treatment at Sunderland Royal Hospital although this was complicated by liver dysfunction, the inquest heard.

Devastatingly, while Dan was receiving treatment, his mum Karen Turnbull, aged 52, died of incurable liver cancer just weeks after she saw Dan marry wife, Laura, in March 2020.

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Dan, who worked at Nissan, went into remission following his second four-week course of chemotherapy – although doctors expect most patients responding well to treatment to be in remission following the first round the inquest heard.

Dan Turnbull pictured with mum Karen, who also sadly died in 2020, and brother Andy.

Outlining Dan’s treatment, Dr Matthew, who treated the rugby player at Sunderland Royal Hospital, said: “It was unlikely his disease could be cured from chemotherapy alone.”

The inquest heard that there was a greater of 90% chance of the cancer returning if they followed a chemotherapy-only route – with Dr Matthew believing he would likely relapse in a matter of months.

On June 17, Dan, of Castletown, had a bone marrow transplant at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital – which gave him a 50% chance of a long term cure.

But his recovery was problematic with infections, breathing difficulties and excess fluid and he was transferred to the intensive care unit.

Dan tragically died on July 18, before he got to meet his newborn baby boy.

Dr Erin Hurst, who treated Dan at the Freeman Hospital, provided a cause of death due to 1a. respiratory failure due to acute respiratory distress syndrome, 1b. bone marrow transplant complicated by chest sepsis and 1c. high risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Following the evidence, assistant coroner Karin Welsh concluded that Dan died of a ‘recognised complication of a necessary medical procedure’.

She said: “Dan was suffering from a sudden and aggressive leukemia. The treatment provided was appropriate but, as I’ve indicated, not without risk.

"In medicine I often say that things are not black and white, there are shades of grey, and it falls to doctors to balance the risk of the procedure as against what they hope will be the outcome.

"In this particular case all treatment was provided with the best of intentions for Dan in hopefully providing him with a long and fulfilling life but sadly he succumbed to the toxicity which was known by the medical professionals.”

After the inquest Dan’s dad Rob said: “There wasn’t any blame to be made. It gave us the opportunity to find out the extra details and ask any questions that we had.

"We expected the outcome.”

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