The parents of a Sunderland girl who lost her courageous struggle against a series of health problems say they feel blessed for the time they had with her.
Four-year-old Lillia Merrington died in hospital after battling a series of infections.
The youngster, who lived with parents Simone Clark and Josh Merrington and little sister Talia, two, in Falkland Road, faced a number of complications throughout her short life.
After contracting meningitis in her early days, the youngster was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, severe brain damage, problems with her thyroid and epilepsy among other conditions. She also needed a wheelchair to get around.
She became very poorly in her final weeks and lost her life on Thursday, May 12 at Sunderland Royal Hospital.
But her parents, both 23, are remaining strong and say they feel blessed to have had her in their lives for four years.
Simone said: “She loved every minute of her life and she always kept our spirits up by laughing and smiling.
“We wouldn’t have done anything different. All we would have wanted to change would be to give her better health, but we’ve loved every second of her life and we just feel blessed for the time that we had with her.
“Now she’s at peace and as her sister says, she’s playing with the angels in heaven.”
Lillia, who was a pupil at Sunningdale School, had been battling a series of infections since January, including influenza and swine flu and had been given a number of invasive procedures by doctors who fought to save her life.
But when doctors felt it was time to stop their interventions and let Lillia pass on, her parents agreed and she passed away shortly afterwards.
Simone said: “They were really surprised she came through all that, but it was with a lot more complications than they’d hoped.
“She got pancreatitis after that, then a hospital virus and urine infections and the doctors said they didn’t want to put her back into intensive care because she wasn’t going to survive anyway.
“Her body was so weak and she hadn’t had enough time to recover from everything. The doctors said it was time to step back and give her some dignity and let her be around her family and we agreed.
“It was up to her to decide when she went and she just deteriorated after that.”
She added: “It was hard seeing her go through everything that she did but we just always tried to focus on the positives and make the most of the time we had with her.
“Even in hospital we had so many happy times and she always had a smile on her face. She was just happy all the time and we were just so proud of her.
“Obviously we feel sadness that she’s not here any more but more than anything we feel happy that we got to spend so much time with her. We just feel totally blessed that we got to spend that time with her.”
Lillia’s funeral is being held at 12.30pm on Monday at Sunderland Crematorium, and the family have asked that people attending wear bright colours rather than black.
Simone added: “Lillia was partially-sighted and couldn’t see black, so we don’t want anyone to wear it when they come to say goodbye to her.
“We’d also love people to bring along a balloon to release after the service.”