The family of Ballymena schoolboy Mark Lynn – who was the public face of a number of British Heart Foundation campaigns – have paid tribute to the eight-year-old who has died.
Mark helped thousands of pounds for the charity in his short life, was born with a complex heart condition and spent much time in hospital.
The Ballymena boy was a son of Donna and Geoff and brother of Geoff, Ryan and Jordan.
Brother Geoff (25) said: “Words will never describe how I felt at the loss of him. Heart-broken is an understatement. He was an absolute legend to me and a warrior.
“He has battled hospitals all his life but unfortunately this time wasn’t meant to be.”
He thanked everyone for their kind messages and phone calls.
The tragedy happened as Mark, who had his first operation when just four weeks old, prepared to travel to London for the British Foundation’s UK-wide Heart Hero Awards this weekend.
He was named as Young Heart Hero in the Northern Ireland awards at Belfast City Hall last year and had been shortlisted for the UK-wide award this year.
Orla Clarke, the charity’s fundraising manager in Northern Ireland, said: “All of us here are heartbroken to learn about Mark’s death.”
She said Mark and his family have inspired everyone at the charity with their bravery.
“He was full of joy and fun and even though he had undergone numerous surgeries and was battling his own heart condition, he wanted to help other children like him by raising money,” she said.
“He has held fun days in his school, coffee mornings and ballots to raise money for congenital heart disease research.
“In February this year he was guest of honour at the opening of our new Ballymena charity shop and cut the ribbon on the store. We were overwhelmed by his enthusiasm and passion to help other children in the face of his own illness.”
She said the charity’s Northern Ireland team had been proud and excited at the prospect of taking Mark and his family to London this weekend where they would have seen the impact he has made.
“It’s heart-breaking that he won’t be there, but Mark has achieved more in his short years than some of us do in a lifetime and he leaves a lasting legacy that will stay with me and all our team in Belfast forever,” she added.
A book of condolence has been set up at Ballykeel Primary School, where Mark was in primary five.
Principal Sandra Sheeran said: “Mark has been with us from nursery and was a much loved pupil. Despite living with a very serious heart condition, he was bright, happy and had a fantastic sense of humour,” the Belfast Telegraph reported.
She added: “He raised a lot of money for the British Heart Foundation and the Children’s Heartbeat Trust, and we were so proud of him when he won the Young Heart Hero Award last year.
“The whole school community is deeply upset that he is no longer with us. We all have so many wonderful memories to treasure, and he will always have a special place in our hearts.
“Our deepest sympathy goes out to his mummy Donna, his daddy Geoff, his three brothers Geoff, Ryan and Jordan, and the wider family circle.”
Mark’s parents had no idea their son had a heart condition until he was born. He was diagnosed with a hole in the heart when just a few days old.
He was subsequently diagnosed with pulmonary stenosis – a condition where the pulmonary valve is very narrow and the muscle of the right ventricle must work harder to pump blood through the valve.
When he was just three weeks old, his family were told Mark faced open heart surgery to survive and he was transferred to the Birmingham Children’s Hospital by air ambulance.
The following notice was on the Funeral Times website: LYNN (Ballymena) 27th September, 2018, at hospital, Mark, cherished son of Geoff and Donna and much loved brother of Geoff, Ryan and Jordan.
Short service in his home, 1 Kintyre Park on Saturday 6th October at 11.15am, followed by a church service in Ballykeel Presbyterian Church, 25 Crebilly Road, at 12.00 noon. Committal afterwards in Ballee Cemetery.
Family flowers only please. Donations in lieu, if desired, for Clarke Clinic and Ward 12 Birmingham Children’s Hospital, c/o Sean Hassan Funeral Director, 45 Warden Street, Ballymena BT43 7DT.
Deeply regretted by his sorrowing father, mother, brothers and entire family circle.
The Lord is my Shepherd. Psalm 23 v.1