A FOUR-year-old boy who was left unconscious and fighting for his life, amazed doctors this week when he spoke for the first time.

Medics at the hospital where little Joseph Wilkin has been treated for the past two months, wept when the tot began speaking and reciting nursery rhymes.

His relieved parents John, 40, and Susan, 37, told the Observer: "The agonising part in all this was Joseph's silence, that broke our hearts. We thought he would never talk again."

Joseph was rushed to Pendebury Children's Hospital in Manchester, after collapsing earlier this year at his home in Higher Stanhill, Oswaldtwistle, where he lives with his parents and brother Lewis. His family feared the worst and were told he could be left brain damaged.

This week John described the moment when they discovered their son had regained consciousness and began talking. He said: "Sue and I walked down the corridor to see him and we could hear a little voice, which we thought was someone else's. It was an absolutely fantastic moment, everyone was in tears, words can't express how happy we were, someone said it was better than winning the lottery. Joseph even began doing nursery rhymes, we had Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Lewis was jumping for joy."

John, an accountant, said it was so long since their "little chatterbox" had spoken they were beginning to forget what he sounded like.

And although Joseph, who was due to join Lewis at West End Primary School in September, is recovering doctors are still unaware what caused his illness.

John said: "They still think it's a viral form of encephalitis - inflammation of the brain, but are no nearer to knowing where it came from."

"But he is getting better and better and this has been a real boost for us all. Sue and I have been deluged with cards from well-wishers, we've had more than 100.

"We want to thank everyone for their prayers but hope they won't stop because we don't know how full Joseph's recovery will be, he has a long way to go. His fluids are fed through his nose at the moment but he's starting to put a bit of weight on and his brain is starting to get better."