Father's tribute to brave Declan, 10

AN EMOTIONAL father last nighttold of the inspiration he gained from his 10-year-old son who died in his arms just hours after being christened.Darren Heath said that his son Declanwould forever be remembered for the courage he showed throughout his 18-month battle to beat cancer.

AN EMOTIONAL father last nighttold of the inspiration he gained from his 10-year-old son who died in his arms just hours after being christened.

Darren Heath said that his son Declanwould forever be remembered for the courage he showed throughout his 18-month battle to beat cancer.

He said that above all Declan, in opting to undergo a pioneering operation, had paved the way for child patients, giving them hope in their struggles.

At about 8pm last Thursday, the West Ham United fan walked down the stairs of his Ashley Road home in Dovercourt, where his family had gathered, and said: “Dad, you can put me to sleep now.”


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An hour-and-a-half later he died lying in his father's arms.

Last night, 41-year-old Mr Heath, an engineer, said: “We think it was his way of saying goodbye to everybody.”

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Earlier that day Declan had fulfilled a wish to be christened after telling his grandfather that although he knew he was going to heaven, he was worried he would be “in limbo” when he arrived.

The youngest of three brothers, Declan was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer in July 2002 when a large lump was discovered on his left pelvis.

His mother, Sue, an administrative assistant in Harwich, took him to the doctors before he was taken to Colchester General Hospital and then to the London Middlesex Hospital.

Doctors told Mr and Mrs Heath that Declan's chances were slim and because the tumour was so large, they thought it impossible to operate.

“But he was a strong boy - one in a million,” his father said. “He had three Hickman lines in all, but he would never admit to the pain - he put is all to shame really.

“He wouldn't spend time in bed - he said only sick people stay in bed and he'd get up and do things and raise money for charities.”

After a course of chemotherapy, senior surgeons decided he had the strength of character to undergo the first operation of its kind in the UK to remove his pelvis and hip joint and insert a prosthetic device to restore full mobility.

After seven hours in theatre in February 2003, he was in intensive care for a week, where he “gobsmacked” nurses with his courage.

For the next few months he lived relatively normally and studied hard at Mayflower Primary School, where he excelled in maths. He enjoyed roller skating and even met his heroes at the West Ham training ground, and had breakfast with Joe Cole.

But in July last year, his parents were told that chemotherapy was not working and the spreading spots on his lung had worsened.

He had a more intense dose of chemotherapy, but in October doctors said he was not going to get better and his parents decided not to tell Declan.

Mr Heath said: “He was such a fighter, but if he knew he had nothing left to fight for we thought he would just go downhill.

“But we had a lovely Christmas with everyone and although he was deteriorating, he was his usual self yapping away. We all loved him very much - he would have gone on to do things in life, we're sure about that.”

On January 8, the Rev Eoin Buchanan visited the family home and Christened Declan.

“We could tell Declan was happy about that, it was the final piece in the jigsaw for him.” He died that night.

His funeral service will be at St Nicholas' Church, Harwich, on Tuesday and his family has invited anyone who knew him to attend.

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