A little girl, Ruby Ayoub, who would have been six this week, was buried in Dublin on Monday following her death from meningitis which doctors wrongly diagnosed as swine flu.
Now her parents have pledged to work to make sure no other family needlessly suffers the same heartache.
Ruby, who lived in Sandyford, County Dublin, fell ill, complaining of a headache, on the evening of Friday, November 6, and was taken to a local surgery by her parents but she was sent home by a doctor who said she had swine flu.
When, clearly in agony, her condition deteriorated, Ruby was taken to Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, where meningitis was diagnosed but crucial hours had been lost and she lapsed into a coma on Sunday.
She never recovered and a life support system was switched off last Friday.
Her heart-broken father, Michel, a Lebanon native who has been in Ireland for 35 years and is married to an Irish woman, Emer, told the congregation at Ruby’s funeral, “She died needlessly. That’s the way I feel about it.
“No one is supposed to get sick after hours or at the weekend in Ireland. We did not know how sick she was. Her mother and I will not stop until we make sure no other family goes through what we did.”
As he sat down mourners applauded.
Father Eamonn Cahill, who presided at the funeral, said the family was in the midst of “a profound mystery.”
He added, “This is so, so unnatural. It flies in the face of all our plans for our loved ones. I can’t imagine the wonderful plans Emer and Michel had for Ruby. Now they are shattered.”
Ruby’s cousin, Sam, a doctor in the Lebanon who flew to Ireland to help once he heard how ill she was, spoke words he imagined the child would have used when she looked down from heaven: “I am still six, dancing with the clouds, running in the fields, collecting a basket of flowers and sliding on the rainbow.
“I have a cousin called Samil -- he’s supposed to help design my wedding dress and give me away, but life didn’t give me that chance.”
Ruby’s parents have four other children, Joe, Alan, Christina and Nina. The family own a well-known car sales business in south Dublin.
Last August, the Meningitis Research Foundation highlighted the possibility of mistakes between H1N1 and meningitis. The foundation pointed out bacterial meningitis could be easily confused with swine flu.
The viruses have similar symptoms, including quick onset of fever, headache, drowsiness and vomiting.