Tragic death of Joe

PUBLISHED: 11:43 22 March 2007 | UPDATED: 11:43 06 May 2010

Joe, pictured in the week he died, with twin sister Jess (right) and younger sister Ellie

Joe, pictured in the week he died, with twin sister Jess (right) and younger sister Ellie

BRAVE schoolboy Joe Males has lost his fight to beat leukaemia and died on Friday eight days after celebrating his 16th birthday. Joe, a pupil at Priory School, Hitchin, passed away at the family home in Old Hale Way in the town surrounded by his parents

BRAVE schoolboy Joe Males has lost his fight to beat leukaemia and died on Friday eight days after celebrating his 16th birthday.

Joe, a pupil at Priory School, Hitchin, passed away at the family home in Old Hale Way in the town surrounded by his parents Sue, 41, and Dave, 48, and sisters, twin Jess, and Ellie, 14.

After Joe had been diagnosed with two types of leukaemia on Friday, January 13, last year, The Comet supported the family in their quest to find a bone marrow donor.

Family and friends also held a series of events to raise money to help the family as they cared for Joe.

A suitable bone marrow donor was eventually found in Canada and Joe underwent the transplant at Bristol Children's Hospital in May and then returned to school.

Three weeks ago Joe returned home from school complaining of headaches and told his parents he feared the illness had returned.

The following day his mother took him to Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, where doctors confirmed those fears that the leukaemia had returned and his life expectancy was measured in weeks.

His parents then put together a plan to try and make every one of Joe's last wishes come true. He went to Southend and skimmed stones on the sea; went ice skating, go-karting, bowling and flew in a helicopter and travelled in a stretch limo. He even plucked up courage, despite being in pain, to travel at 142mph on the back of a motorbike at a race track.

He fought through the pain to the end with his courage gaining admiration from everyone who met him.

This week his mother spoke about her son's fight for life and the legacy he has left for so many young people to admire and remember.

"When I told him I was taking him back to Addenbrooke's he did not put up any resistance," said Sue. "They examined Joe and took his bloods. It was only when the CLIC (Cancer and Leukaemia in Children) nurse sat in the room my stomach churned. The disease had returned.

"All that could be done had been done. If Joe had not had the bone marrow transplant then that would have been a possibility. We decided that instead of sending Joe back to hospital for treatment whatever oral chemo was available would be taken at home.

"Joe wanted to know how long he had. I thought it would be like a big countdown and do him no favours so I kept this from him. All Joe wanted to do was go home and see his sisters.

"From that afternoon, when we started telling people, everyone rallied to help us and the next 12 days were jammed with whatever Joe wanted to do until the last three days when his illness finally kept him in bed."

Sue added: "We try not to have regrets. As a family we did what we could in the time we had left.

"Joe wanted to go out as much as possible. Joe's thoughts to me were 'I can't die. I have too much to do'.

"But in spite of the relapse he never once said 'why?' or 'it's not fair'. All he asked me to do was not let the girls waste their lives.

"Jess and Ellie have been absolutely fantastic. A week after Joe relapsed he asked me to take him into town as he had some money saved saying it was no use to him now and wanted to buy something for his sisters.

"He looked round a jeweller's and chose a piece for his sweetheart and something for his sisters which he gave to them the day before he died.

"Joe touched so many people's lives with his bravery and never complained once about his illness."

Pupils in Year 11 at Priory School held an emotional assembly on Monday conducted by head of year Trevor Wilson where they heard of Joe's death.

Before he died the school had informed Joe what grades he would be awarded for his GCSEs which included two A*s for resistant materials and electronics, a remarkable achievement in view of the short amount of time Joe had to complete his coursework.

"He was a wonderful young man, always with a ready smile and for 15 months during treatment he never complained," said Mr Wilson.

"On the day he died I went to see him at home and he was in pain but managed to flicker his right eye in response to me.

"It was an honour and pleasure to teach him. He was a courageous boy who will always be remembered."

Joe's funeral will take place at St Mary's Church, Hitchin, on Tuesday at 11.45am followed by a private cremation at Stopsley. On that day Priory School will also be closed in Joe's memory so pupils can attend the service.

Instead of flowers there will be a collection at the church for balloons that will be released together after the service. All the money will go to Leukaemia Research.


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