LITTLE Ruairi Smart was in his usual bouncy form and looking forward to the day in his creche when he kissed his mother Mags goodbye one morning less than a year ago.
But it would not be long before his devastated family had to gather at his hospital bedside to say a final farewell to the youngster, who died after becoming a victim of a silent killer.
"My darling Ruairi lived for just 207 days," said Mags.
Ruairi had developed a form of meningitis after being infected with a strain of pneumococcal disease.
Because of his age he had not yet got the third vaccine in the programme of pneumococcal vaccine injections – but this only protects against a limited amount of strains.
Ruairi got a strain which is not covered by the vaccine.
Mags is now hoping that research will provide more vaccines and treatments to protect against these other strains of the disease.
She says he got the best of care from medical staff, and that the deadly disease crept up on Ruairi with shocking speed.
"He loved his grub, but the creche noticed at lunch time he was not fussed about his lunch. They called me and asked to get him checked out."
Mags, who is also mother to Micheal (5), picked him up and took him to their local GP in Wexford who suggested they go to A&E as a precaution.
"There was no rush. Ruairi was lethargic but that was it. They could not find anything wrong with him but gave him the usual antibiotics and antivirals just in case.
"They then did blood tests and could not find anything, but suggested they would keep him in overnight for observation. The nurses were told to get fluids into him. A brain scan was also done and nothing was wrong.
"His breathing became laboured and they suggested transferring him to Temple Street Children's Hospital. This was routine."
Ruairi was transferred to Temple Street the next morning. He had been sedated for the journey and Mags and her husband Rob were told they were waiting for the youngster to come to.
Doctors became worried when he appeared to slip into a coma and carried out a scan. This showed a swelling on the brain and a neurosurgeon was called on to treat it.
"We never thought anything was seriously wrong. But by the time the neurosurgeon went in the pneumococcal meningitis had gone through him like wildfire. At that stage he was clinically gone."
Ruairi had to be kept alive artificially while his heartbroken parents called on their family to say their goodbyes.
Mags was speaking about her own tragedy to highlight the Meningitis Research Foundation's National Awareness Week from September 16-22.
"We cannot be complacent about any forms of meningitis," she added.
To find out more about the symptoms visit the Meningitis Research Foundation website: www.meningitis.org.
By Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent