A popular St John Ambulance volunteer died in his sleep on Christmas Eve after being hit by a rare viral infection which attacked his heart.
Dean Hill, 24, was found in his bed by devastated dad Colin, 58, just hours after returning to the family home after a stay in hospital.
The budding paramedic had endured two separate stints in hospital after being diagnosed with myocarditis, the symptoms of which started with a cough.
He suffered blood clots, but after returning to his home in Spout Lane, it appeared he was well on the road to recovery.
Parents Colin and Sheena, 54, were left crushed when the devastating discovery of Dean’s body was found the following morning.
Sheena, of Washington Village, said: “Dean felt great when he came home, and the pain had gone from his leg and neck, where the blood clots had been.
“He went to bed at 10pm and my husband found him the next morning.
“Doctors have said his heart will have stopped in his sleep and it would have been peaceful. We can’t believe he has gone.”
Dean, who was proudly pictured with several stars of the screen at events in recent years, was an IT worker for Hewlett Packard Enterprise, but dreamed of a career as a paramedic and was looking into university courses which would help him achieve his ambition.
His dream grew from his time with St John Ambulance, which will put on a procession from Dean’s home Our Blessed Lady Immaculate, in Village Lane, Washington, where his funeral will take place today. Some of Dean’s former colleagues will form a guard of honour. The former St Joseph’s RC Primary School and St Robert of Newminster Catholic School pupil worked at events such as the London Marathon, Great North Run and Premier League football matches.
Sheena added: “He just loved being part of the St John Ambulance, and was very proud of it. He always just wanted to help other people and we are so proud of him. He was a lovely lad, and very gentle and caring.”
On today’s (Thursday’s) funeral, which will start with the procession at 11.30am, Sheena said: “It’s a procession to the church where he was christened.
“It will be done by the priest who baptised him and he will be buried there.
“He loved where he lived and said that he never wanted to move out of Washington Village. It’s a comfort to know he will always be where he wanted to be.”