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Family's agony as Ryan (4) dies just two weeks after leukaemia diagnosis

By Laura Abernethy

Published 15/03/2016

Ryan Ross with his dad Gary
Ryan Ross with his dad Gary
Ryan opening a gift
Ryan Ross with his little sister Olivia

The family of a little east Belfast boy who died suddenly just two weeks after he was diagnosed with leukaemia have paid tribute to their "lovely wee boy".

Less than a month ago, Julie and Gary Ross watched their little boy Ryan (4) run around with his sister Olivia (2) in his favourite Chelsea football strip.

Now, they are preparing to bury their child after he died suddenly on Sunday in the Royal Victoria Hospital while receiving treatment for the aggressive blood cancer.

His dad Gary said: "We're still trying to come to terms with our loss. It's very, very hard.

"Ryan was so full of life. He was a lovely to have around and he was so loved by all his friends at school, his family and all our friends."

Before his illness, Ryan went to preschool at the Carew II centre on Tamar Street and loved to play with his older brothers Aaron (19) and Dylan (14). He was also very close to his little sister Olivia.

Gary added: "He was a normal four-year-old boy and he enjoyed life to the max. He loved his sister and they always had a ball together."

"He was in preschool and was ready for P1 later this year. He had so many friends there and even when he was ill, he loved to facetime them from hospital."

Ryan was diagnosed at the end of February. His parents noticed that he was a bit run down and wasn't sleeping at night so they took him to his GP for a check up.

He was diagnosed with anemia but the doctor asked to do a second blood test the following week.

After the second test, Gary and Julie were given the devastating news that Ryan had leukaemia and he was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children.

Gary explained: "We got a call from the doctor that afternoon and he said we needed to speak to him. There were so many thoughts going through our heads at that point.

"They said that Ryan was at high risk of leukaemia. We thought maybe they'd got mixed up but the next day it was confirmed. It was such a shock."

He started chemotherapy a few days later but doctors were optimistic about his illness as it had been diagnosed quickly.

Gary added: "It was a big high-five to the doctor for doing the second blood count because his leukaemia had just started. It was something that was tracked within the space of a week. If the doctor hadn't done that blood test, we wouldn't have known until he was really sick.

"From the beginning, the staff were just amazing and his consultants were so on the ball with everything."

He had been responding well to treatment but last Friday, Ryan started to feel unwell and suddenly went downhill.

His stomach was swollen and doctors thought it was just constipation but on Saturday night he started to be sick and he was very agitated. In the early hours, his blood pressure dropped and he was moved to intensive care.

He initially improved on Sunday morning and had been chatting to doctors and his mum Julie, who was with him.

Suddenly his blood pressure dropped and he had a cardiac arrest. Doctors worked with him for 17 and a half minutes and he came round.

Sadly, he had another cardiac arrest just after 11am and doctors were unable to bring him back.

"It was just so quick", Gary said.

"He was fine on Friday but he caught an infection and it was too strong for him to overcome. He was just too weak because he had no immune system from the chemo. He just wasn't strong enough."

The family are now planning Ryan's funeral and the local community have gone from organising fundraising events for Ryan's recovery to raising money to help with his burial.

"We're just coming to terms with it. It's hard to understand and we're preparing to bring him home to lay him to rest.

"It's very hard for his siblings to understand. Olivia is too young to understand. They were very close and she knows there's something just not right."

The community have rallied together and have raised almost £3,000 in his memory in less than 48 hours.

Gary added: "He was much loved by everyone here in the community in east Belfast. It means a lot to us all that the community are supporting us. They've been there from the moment we found out he had leukaemia and we're so grateful for all the support. It brings us some comfort."

Hundreds of messages have been posted on social media in tribute to the little boy.

East Belfast Football Club, where Ryan's older brother Dylan plays, said: "We are all left shellshocked and can't even begin to put into words at the news that the wee man passed away this morning.

"For now we would just like to pass on our sincere condolences and would like to let Gary and Julie know we will not let you down."

To donate to Ryan's fund, visit https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/RyanRoss

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