The heartbroken dad of an eight-year-old boy who died from meningitis has said he didn’t realise how ill his son was until it was too late.
Cardiff City-mad Ashton Edmunds-Richards, from Ely, was playing football the day before he died, dad Rhys Edmunds said.
His brother, Zac, 13, also had the disease but has since made a full recovery.
Both boys were struck down by the meningitis B strain of the disease.
“His older brother felt ill the day before but the doctor said it was a virus,” said Rhys, who lives on Dyfrig Road.
“The morning Ashton died was Easter Friday and he came in at 7am saying, ‘I want my eggs, I want my eggs’ so I gave him one even though it wasn’t Easter yet.
“But later said he felt ill. He lay on the sofa and I checked in on him and at 1pm he was asleep. I tried to wake him but he didn’t wake and I just thought he was very tired.”
Going between his older son, who ill in bed upstairs, and Ashton on the sofa downstairs, single dad Rhys, 28, thought it was odd his younger son was still asleep at 6pm but it wasn’t until 8pm that he saw a faint rash on his cheek.
“I panicked when I saw that,” he said.
“He was white and had a rash. I called the doctor and an ambulance.”
An ambulance arrived within five minutes but Ashton died soon after arriving in hospital.
“I went with him in the ambulance. They were pumping his chest but it just stopped,” he said.
“The ambulance arrived quickly but there was nothing they could do.”
When tests showed Ashton died of meningococcal septicaemia caused by the meningitis B strain an ambulance was rushed to pick up Zac.
Zac spent two weeks in hospital but has since made a full recovery and has returned to school at Glyn Derw High in Caerau.
A striker for Rhymney AFC under-14s, Zac is well enough to play in a match today.
But Rhys said his older son is devastated at losing his little brother, who was a year three pupil at Millbank Primary in Ely.
“They were very close as brothers. In the hospital Zac kept asking where Ashton was, but we couldn’t tell him. We kept saying he was sleeping in another ward.
“We didn’t tell him for a few days.”
Rhys now wants other parents to know how quickly the disease can strike and that it doesn’t always show a rash.
“As a parent I just thought he was very tired and needed sleep while I was going back and forth between the two boys,” he said.
“We were told as Zac is bigger his immune system was more able to cope.”
Since Ashton’s death on March 30, Rhys says he has good days and bad days, but that the boys’ schools have been a big support.
Rhys, who raised the boys and is separated from their mother, Carly Richards, lives with his mother Carol Edmunds and grandmother Winifred Cavana, who have been helping him come to terms with the loss.
Acting head of Millbank Primary, Karen Brown, said: “As you can imagine it has been a very hard time dealing with such a tragedy – Ashton was a lovely little boy with a cheeky smile who was a privilege to know, care for and teach.
“We are a small school of 150 pupils so it has affected everyone here. The children hadn’t seen teachers crying before but they have over the last few weeks.”
Ashton’s family attended a school service before his funeral last week and asked for pupils to wear bright colours to remember Ashton.
His father also arranged for his little boy’s funeral cortege to drive past the school so staff and children could wave goodbye.
Teachers and pupils have been offered counselling and advice from the LEA and the Meningitis Trust but, as the illness struck during the school holidays, there is no risk to others in the school
Dr Marion Lyons, director of health protection at Public Health Wales, said the case was isolated.
“Public Health Wales can confirm the death of an eight year old boy from Cardiff on 30 March 2013,” he said.
“As a precaution, close contacts of the child were identified and those requiring medication were treated. There is no risk to any other individual.”
Ffion Haf, Wales community support officer for the Meningitis Trust, said to have two brothers affected in this way was very rare.
“There have been other cases of meningitis in Wales through the winter but they are not linked and there is not an outbreak,” she said.
A bench and memorial plaque for Ashton, donated by Lloyds TSB as part of its community scheme, is being placed in the school garden next week.
To help pupils cope with the loss an “Ashton Corner” has also been created – with a football, a football shirt, photos, cushions and beanbags – so children can sit quietly and remember him.
A messages and memories book from children and staff has also been given to Ashton’s family.
Early symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia can include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle and joint pain, drowsiness and a red rash that doesn’t fade when pressed by a glass tumbler.
These can often look like other more common illnesses like flu and someone with meningitis or septicaemia can get a lot worse very quickly so it is vital to keep checking them.
Further information is available from Meningitis Cymru on 0800 652 9996, Meningitis Research Foundation on 0808 800 3344 and The Meningitis Trust’s 24 hour nurse-led helpline on 0808 80 10 388.