A Buxton teenager who defied the odds by surviving a terminal brain condition has died ‘peacefully’ at home with his family listening to Elton John.
Josh Leech, 18, was born with microcephaly, where a child’s head is smaller than normal - causing brain-related problems including epilepsy and cerebral palsy.
Despite being told he would not live to see his second birthday by doctors, Josh survived and his quality of life was improved thanks to a number of operations.
Josh had to be fed through a plastic tube in his stomach and suffered permanent lung damage after contracting swine flu at the age of nine.
The virus left him permanently needing oxygen, and with his lungs so damaged that any cold or virus could be fatal.
He died on January 10 listening to I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues with his loving family.
The Buxton youngster had been cared for at home by his family since he was two. Mum Rachel, 43, and dad Gavin, 42, turned their house into an ‘intensive care unit’ for him.
Rachel, a counsellor, told how after sustaining lung damage the family, including brothers Kieran, 20, and Brandon, 17, were told he would only survive another year.
However, a new treatment in the form of a BiPAP machine to help rid Josh’s body of unwanted CO2 significantly improved his quality of life - making the last eight years until his death ‘happier and brighter’.
Rachel said: “He really enjoyed life for the last eight years.
“We discovered he had such a love of water through hydrotherapy - he loved that sense of floating.
“He loved music but as he became a teenager he would roll his eyes at me when I played his old favourite Barney the dinosaur.
“He really loved fiddle music and would listen to a lot of rock with Gav.”
Over the years other members of the community helped by caring for Josh at home - giving Gavin and Rachel the occasional night off.
Rachel said: “You could always tell if it was a pretty young lady because he could be quite flirtatious.
“He had such a personality and those who were lucky enough to get to know him knew he communicated with his eyes.”
In September last year Josh’s health plummeted after catching a virus and the family knew he would not be around for much longer.
Despite this the family enjoyed one last ‘amazing’ holiday together at a specially-adapted house in Tenby, South Wales - despite medical professionals saying they were ‘nuts’.
Describing Josh’s last moments, Rachel said: “He breathed and then he stopped breathing - it was so peaceful.”
A celebration of Josh’s life will be held at St Peter’s Church, Fairfield, on February 4 at 12pm, and everyone is welcome to attend. It will be followed by a private family cremation.
The family would like to invite everyone for refreshments at High Peak Golf Club after the service.