THE parents of a teenager who died after an asthma attack have spoken of their heartbreak. Amenah Fitzpatrick (17) died suddenly on February 9 after suffering the only severe asthma attack of her short life.
Today Amenah's parents Tony and Felicity spoke of their daughter as a "photography nut" who loved spending time with her younger brother Oran and tweeting online.
"She was colourful in every way, she could have a different hair colour every week," said mum Felicity.
Amenah, whose name means hope in Rwandan, developed asthma when she was just two. However, in 15 years she had never suffered a severe attack until the one that claimed her life.
"Other children would need nebulisers but she never had to have that at all. It was a complete bolt from the blue for us," said her mum, from Tramore, Co Waterford.
On the night of her death, Amenah went to bed as usual at 10.30pm. However, hours later her parents were awoken by their daughter coming into their room saying she couldn't breathe.
"She sat on the side of the bed and said 'I can't breathe'. I was lifting her arms up in the air to lengthen her lungs. I was telling her to relax.
"We were trying to comfort her and open her airways and she just passed away. I have to pinch myself sometimes as if it's just a dream. I couldn't understand how it happened."
Despite desperate attempts by her dad to revive her, the fifth year student remained unconscious and was later pronounced dead in hospital.
"I held her in my arms until basically she passed away in my arms. She wasn't in pain but she was frightened. She looked at me in the eyes and said 'I'm frightened'. I just held her telling her 'I'll help you, I'll fix you," said Tony.
"I was doing CPR on her. It seems like a lifetime but it wasn't actually. After it was very hard to ring people and break the news. Even with immediate family I couldn't find a way to say it. We can't understand it ourselves." Her devastated parents were determined to celebrate Amenah's life at her funeral. Her coffin was covered with Hello Kitty stickers while a rock song was played at the graveyard.
"She made no apologies for the things she loved. She adored Ariel the little mermaid but she was equally into very heavy metal," said her mum.
"We tried to keep it as upbeat as possible," added her dad. "We wanted to keep it as happy as possible even though it was an awful occasion. At the graveyard we were looking at her friends and they were smiling and hugging each other. Everyone was happy. That's what we wanted."
Her parents said that they could not have got through the past weeks without the help of their community. They also thanked the ambulance service and the Order of Malta for all their help.
"Our community have been just unbelievable. They have supported us in every single way. We have had bad days as well. When people go home we are left with it and we do get upset," said Tony.
Amenah's death has also had a huge impact on her 11-year-old brother Oran. He wrote a letter to Amenah which was placed in her coffin. In it he revealed that because Amenah could not thank the people who tried to save her he would do so on her behalf.
"It was hard for me, of course, it was hard for everyone, but I thought, who am I going to walk to school with, who is going to watch movies with me on Saturdays and Sundays, who is going to babysit me on Saturday nights?
"Thanks for everything you have done with me, you have introduced me to the things I love now, you will be missed," he added.
Her family now hope that their close bonds and happy memories will help them through.
"She'll be really missed but at least we had 17 years with her. We have amazing memories that will stand to us. People were so upset about the things we won't get to do with her but we have to look at all we got to do," said mum Felicity.