Northern Ireland news

Dale Eakin dies after 20-year battle with rare illness

Dale Eakin's plight captured the hearts of people all over the world.
Seamus McKinney

A young Co Derry man whose plight as a child captured the hearts of people around the world has died following a 20-year battle with a rare illness.

Dale Eakin was one of only three people globally known to suffer from Yunis Varon Syndrome, a genetic disorder which restricted his growth and left him unable to breathe.

Weighing just over 3lbs at birth, he was not expected to survive for more than 24 hours but defied medical experts to live for more than 20 years.

Dale passed away in the Intensive Care Unit at Altnagelvin hospital in the presence of his mum Jackie and dad Trevor yesterday.

The Limavady man spent most of the first four years of his life in hospital. Despite needing round-the-clock care, he fought against his symptoms to lead as normal a life as possible, eventually attending school and enjoying an active social life.

A fund-raising campaign to help his parents sparked a huge outpouring of support.

Dale’s heartbroken dad told The Irish News last night that people from every corner of the globe still remain in touch with the family.

Dale Eakin (pictured aged 10 in 2008) defied all medical odds. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

A regular sight in his wheelchair around Limavady, he passed away peacefully at 8am yesterday.

Mr Eakin said: “Dale had to go into hospital yesterday and was taken to Resus and the doctors worked with him until 10 o’clock last night and then he went into Intensive Care but he just went down from there.

“I think he knew he was going. He would just say Momma and Dadda. He just gave a wee smile and away he went.

"Jackie and me were holding his hands tight."

He said his son’s life could be summed up with the words “courage and happiness”.

“He was always smiling. A doctor said to me that in all his years as a doctor he never saw a child who was so sick and still smiled all the time.

“He was always very happy and inspired everyone he came in touch with; he was a very good boy. I don’t know how Jackie and me are going to get our heads round this."

Dale’s funeral service will take place at Banagher Presbyterian Church at 2pm on . Sunday. He will be buried afterwards at Enagh cemetery in Limavady.

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