London - Alfie Evans’s father gave his dying son mouth-to-mouth resuscitation for ten minutes in a desperate bid to keep him alive, relatives said on Sunday.
Thomas Evans, 21, who last week lost his legal fight to take the toddler abroad for treatment, did everything he could to save his son as he slipped away.
Alfie, 23 months, survived for more than four days after his life support was withdrawn following a High Court ruling that further treatment was against his best interests.
Doctors believed he was suffering from an incurable neurological condition that prevented him from converting food into energy.
On Saturday, his heartbroken parents announced that Alfie had died.
On Sunday his mother, Kate James, 20, shared an emotional poem on Facebook along with a tribute titled "We love you Alfie, we do".
It began: "Mummy please don’t cry now. For I must go to sleep. I’ll be beside you always. To dry the tears you weep."
Alfie would have turned two next Wednesday and his parents’ supporters, who dubbed themselves Alfie’s Army, plan to light candles on the day.
But there were also fears those with no link to the family were raising money for Alfie’s funeral without his parents’ permission. A post on the Alfie’s Army Facebook page read: "No one should be asking for money on their behalf right now." The bitter battle over whether or not Mr Evans and Miss James should be able to take Alfie to Italy for treatment had seen supporters storm Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool in protest.
However, the dispute ended on Thursday after Mr Evans announced he wanted to rebuild his relationship with doctors.
The couple had been discussing the possibility of taking Alfie home for palliative care but he died before they could get him there. A relative told the Sunday Mirror that Mr Evans had been "blowing and blowing and blowing" as he tried to save his son, who died at around 2.30am. The couple then held him in their arms before falling asleep in his hospital room.
Mr Evans posted on Facebook: "My Gladiator lay down his shield and gained his wings … absolutely heartbroken." By Sunday he and his partner’s posts had attracted half a million comments and likes.
Led by Mr Evans’s sister Sarah, a group of around 1 500 mourners gathered on Saturday for a vigil at a park near the hospital to release thousands of blue and purple balloons.
Pope Francis, who met Mr Evans at the Vatican during his battle, tweeted: "I am deeply moved by the death of little Alfie."
Tens of thousands of others left comments on Facebook and on Sunday railings outside the hospital remained covered in tributes. Alder Hey released a statement expressing its "heartfelt sympathy and condolences to Alfie’s family at this extremely distressing time".
Alfie’s case has led to renewed debate over whether parents’ wishes for medical treatment should be given more weight.
It follows last year’s court battles led by the parents of Charlie Gard, who also wanted to take their son abroad for experimental treatment. Charlie, who had a rare genetic disorder, died last July following disagreements over his care with doctors.
On Friday his parents Connie Yates and Chris Gard revealed they had been working to change the law to give greater regard to parents’ wishes in such disputes.
Dominic Wilkinson, a professor of medical ethics at the University of Oxford, said Alfie’s story highlighted a need for independent mediators when parents disagree with doctors over their child’s treatment.