THE last time I saw Jamie Inglis, he and his parents John and Vicky had just touched down in a private aeroplane at Sherburn airfield. It was October last year, and the three were coming home for a short break from Jamie’s gruelling cancer treatment in Germany.
As the plane taxied towards us, Press photographer Frank Dwyer and I could both clearly see Jamie through the windows. His face was split in that beaming smile of excitement and enthusiasm that those lucky enough to have met him will always remember.
Only a month earlier, I had actually flown out to Germany to visit Jamie in hospital there. John and Vicky had taken him to the beautiful university city of Tubingen, where they were hoping a pioneering form of cancer treatment might save his life.
I gave him a gift – just a couple of action toys, nothing special. But his smile lit up the room, as it always did.
From his hospital room – which could have been the bedroom of any little boy if it wasn’t for the drip and medical equipment standing alongside his Batman posters and bright paintings – you could see the stunning hills surrounding the city.
But to guard against infection, Jamie wasn’t allowed outside for too long or to play with the other children in the ward and he had just spent a month in complete isolation in a sealed room.
I doubt many children would have dealt with this in the way Jamie was doing. A bright, cheeky, funny little boy, Jamie had charmed all of the medical staff who came in to see him with that beaming smile.
Alongside his parents, he drew pictures for his sister Poppy, played with his action models and even watched a YouTube video to understand in great detail how the intravenous line, which fed morphine and food supplements through an artery in his chest, worked.
When he was allowed to travel out to the hospital-owned house his parents were staying at, he delighted in searching for spiders in the car park and in seeing his friend and fellow patient Vanessa.
Jamie showed remarkable bravery, spirit and strength. An inquisitive and happy little boy, nothing could have been too much for him. It was testament to the devotion of his parents that they did not accept the palliative care offered by the NHS and instead fought to save his life.
Experts on the team at Tubingen believe they will cure children of neuroblastoma and are making significant headway in helping children who have suffered a relapse. Jamie was officially in remission from cancer before suffering complications.
While John and Vicky were torn between obligations and questioned their choices, what struck me when I was in Germany was that their love and commitment in doing the best for their son meant there wasn’t a choice to make.
As John said: “We were very frightened to put Jamie in this position, but we know that by not putting him in it, the risk of this cancer coming back and being even more drastic or aggressive than it was before is far greater than doing nothing.”
Jamie’s courage in dealing with his illness was remarkable, as was the bravery and dignity of his parents who, while coping with the most difficult of circumstances, continued to be positive and to support other families with poorly children and to represent the charity Neuroblastoma Alliance.
Hundreds and hundreds of tributes had already been made online yesterday, many referring to Jamie's bravery, smile and happy nature. From his family, his school friends and teachers to the countless people who raised money for Jamie, the scale of the tributes is testament to the number of people his life touched.
I’d like to add my own tribute here. It was an honour and a privilege to have known you, Jamie. Your smile could light up a room. Your courage was humbling.