A SIX-year-old boy has died of meningitis less than 24 hours after complaining of feeling ill.
Marti-Lee McDonagh, of Trinity Street, Oswaldtwistle, was found dead by his stepdad last Friday morning – just 10 weeks after his beloved grandad lost his battle against cancer
His heartbroken mum Sarah Magee, 25, said: "On Thursday he woke up with a stiff neck and we just thought he had slept funny. He was a bit achy so I kept him off school and kept him tucked up in bed with lots of water.
"That night he just seemed to have come down with a bad cold and when I could hear him struggling to settle I took him downstairs and laid him on the settee and sat with him until 1am or 2am.
"When I asked him if he wanted to be left alone he said yes, so I kissed him goodnight and went to bed. That was the last time I saw him alive."
Tragically the tell-tale meningitis rash did not develop until the very final stages of the illness.
Sarah said: "He was healthy, happy and robust and was never ill. When my partner Sam went down to go to work and found him covered in the rash, I just couldn’t believe it. The paramedics said he had been gone at least two hours at 6am."
Little Marti-Lee was a popular pupil at Moor End Primary School, Oswaldtwistle, and was renowned for embracing everything life had to throw at him.
His dad, Lee McDonagh, said: "He was very adventurous. He loved going out on quad bikes and mountain bikes and in the 4x4 Jeep. He was so friendly you couldn’t help but love him.
"He really wanted to make us proud and he never failed. He was always bringing certificates home from school."
The X-box mad youngster leaves a large extended family including his three-year-old sister Taylor-Leigh, 19-month-old sister Mika, stepdad Sam Flaherty who he used to call "my mate" and stepmum Naomi Ryan who is expecting his half-brother or sister.
They are all taking some comfort in knowing he is in the safe hands of his grandad, Richard Wheatcroft, 38, who died in November after a short battle with cancer.
Sarah said: "We are going to bury him next to his grandad who he loved very much and hopefully they will be able to rest together.
"I just hope he knows that his mummy and daddy love him more than words can describe and that we always will. We will never forget him. He was the best child we could ever have dreamed of."
The family have all had to take a two-day course of antibiotics as a precautionary measure.
Parents of children at Marti-Lee’s school have been sent a letter of guidance but the Health Protection Agency says it was a single isolated case and that there is no danger to his classmates.
Moor End headteacher Christine Jackson said: "We are all completely devastated by the sudden loss of this little boy. He was a delightful, bubbly little boy, full of energy and popular with his classmates.
"The whole school is in shock but we are comforting the children and the county council’s critical incident support team is in school and giving us a lot of help.
"Our thoughts are with Marti-Lee’s family and we send them our heartfelt sympathy."
Marti-Lee’s funeral will take place at 11am on Tuesday at Accrington Crematorium.