THE parents of brave youngster Leah Garfitt said they were by her side as she died at Brian House Hospice.
Leah, 10, of Wansbeck Avenue, Fleetwood, died last Tuesday after suffering from the rare Niemann Pick Disease Type C.
And mum and dad Lindsey Patterson and Michael Garfitt said they could not thank the hospice enough for the support they had given.
The pupil at Red Marsh School in Thornton, was just weeks away from her 11th birthday when she died in her parents’ arms.
Her health had been deteriorating since last November, as she struggled with choking fits, and she had spent the last two weeks at Brian House in Bispham.
Mrs Patterson said: “The staff at Brian House could not have done more for us. They really helped us all the way through.”
Mr Garfitt added: “Without them, Leah would not have lasted this long, and we would not have been able to get through this.
“Leah is at peace and not suffering any more.
“We were just glad we were with her at the end. We’d fallen asleep but we woke in time to see her slip away.”
Leah was one of just 500 people in the world with Niemann Pick Disease, in which youngsters usually go on to develop problems with swallowing and dementia, and often do not survive to junior school.
Fearing what was to come from this incurable illness of the central nervous system, her parents and grandmother, Diane Hollings, launched a campaign in 2007 to send the bubbly youngster to Disney World in Florida, while she was still well enough to enjoy it.
The Fleetwood community rallied round to raise £10,500 in just a few months.
Manchester-based documentary maker Chris Malone heard about Leah and made a touching and uplifting TV film, Leah’s Dream, which led to a flood of letters and cards to the family from all over the country.
The film was screened six times, including during a prime time slot on ITV last year.
Mrs Patterson added: “Leah was so ill at the end, but never stopped fighting. Once things have settled, we’ll at least have plenty of happy memories of her.
“She was very funny and people always took to her. Last year she met her favourite band JLS and we’re just glad she was well enough to do that.”
The family thanked those who have sent flowers and messages of condolence since Leah’s death, and also paid tribute to the medical staff – Doctors Susan Salt, Mohammed Ahmed and Richard Feakes at Brian House, and her own GP, Dr Robert Smyth.
A fund-raising event, Fleet Fest, will be held at Fleetwood Cricket Club on Sunday May 13, raising funds for Brian House, Red Marsh School, the Rainbow Trust, and Fleetwood youngster Molly Robinson.
n Leah’s funeral will be at St Peter’s Parish Church on Monday at 10am, prior to cremation at Carleton Crematorium at 11.30am.