A grieving dad has told of how his brave young son died just five weeks after being diagnosed with leukaemia – and whispered ‘I love you’ hours before he slipped away.
Kind-hearted Kaden McKenna, aged nine, began his battle with the devastating blood disorder in November after his parents spotted black bruises all over his body.
Despite the terrifying news of his illness, parents Damian McKenna and Janine Bree have told of how the popular youngster retained a positive outlook, even volunteering to shave off his hair to fundraise for his hospital ward.
After a five week battle with leukaemia, during which he spent much time in hospital in Cambridge, the youngster passed away on January 7.
The McKenna family, who live in Ipswich, Suffolk, have vowed to complete the fundraising on behalf of the youngster, who was “always thinking of others”.
Proud dad Damian McKenna, 39, told of the worrying warning signs of the devastating disease.
He said: “The first time we thought something was up was on a bike ride. Kaden kept stopping saying he was tired and his legs ached.
“So we went home early. While he was in bath we noticed that he had lots of black bruises on his body.
“At first we thought maybe he had been bullied – what other reason was there? But he was so popular at school and had a lot of friends.
“He assured us he hadn’t been bullied so we took him to doctors.”
Kaden was taken straight to Ipswich Hospital in Suffolk, where staff ran blood tests and warned that the nine-year-old may have leukaemia.
He was then taken to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.
Dad Damian said: “The paramedic asked if there was anything Kaden wanted to ask.
“Kaden replied, “Will I be back on Thursday for PE at school?'”.
Doctors in Cambridge later confirmed that Kaden had leukaemia.
Damian said: “They told Kaden that one of the side effects of treatment is hair loss.
“So he suggested that he shave it off early to raise some money for the ward. All the nurses and doctors had been so good with him.
“Kaden was always thinking of others before himself, especially his siblings.
“He had a really good outlook on his illness. Obviously he didn’t want it but knew he couldn’t do anything about it so took everything in his stride.”
“He didn’t moan, get upset or complain once. Most nights he would go around the ward saying goodnight to the nurses.”
The nine-year-old was allowed home for Christmas, and insisted on buying presents for other children in the ward who were not so lucky.
But Kaden’s condition then took a turn for the worse, finding out he had shingles on New Year’s Day.
Damian said: “He was on antibiotics and his hair had started to fall out, so we decided to shave it off.
“Two days later Kaden became really poorly and was having trouble breathing, which made it hard to hear him when he spoke.”
Damian told of the heartbreaking moment his son whispered his final words.
He said: “Kaden mumbled a few things. I took the mask off his face and asked him what he said.
“He said he loved me, to which I replied that I loved him more. He said ‘I love you lots and lots’, at which point I had to walk away as I was in bits. That’s the last thing I ever heard him say.”
Kaden passed away at hospital in the early hours of January 7.
Dad Damian described the family’s heartbreak after losing “a gorgeous, handsome son”.
He said: “Everyone is devastated and in shock. You couldn’t have asked for a more caring and thoughtful son, cousin, friend, nephew, grandson or big brother.
“Our oldest daughter Leray is disabled and he enjoyed pushing her in her wheelchair. He would clean her face and help her on the stairs.
“He adored his young sister Taylyn and always looked forward to holding her or playing on floor with her.
“And then there is his brother Shay. The longest time they were apart was when Kaden was in hospital. They were the best of brothers.
“I’ve lost a best friend and I can’t see how our lives will carry on without him.”
“There is not one person who could say a bad word about Kaden, which makes me realise how unfair this world can be.”
The family have vowed to complete the fundraising, which Kaden never got to give himself.
Their online donations page has already raised more than £1,800 of its £2,000 target.
To donate to Kaden’s fundraising campaign, visit crowdfunding.justgiving.com/damian-mckenna.