Little Azaria Worrell lost her battle with cancer today surrounded by her family at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).
Grieving relatives told Barbados TODAY that the brave nine-year-old, who fought the disease since May this year, took her last breath at 8:57 a.m.
When the news reached her St Alban’s Primary School in St James, even the youngest students were shaken, and counsellors had to be called in.
“She passed peacefully but she put up the fight until the end. My baby is gone. Pinky has left us,” her mother, Alicia Worrell, told Barbados TODAY hours after she passed.
On November 2, Barbados TODAY highlighted Azaria’s story about her fight with cancer, which evoked widespread support from several thousand readers who were touched by her braveness and offered words of encouragement and numerous get well wishes.
At the time of the interview, a bright, curious and beautiful Azaria said she just wanted to get her chemotherapy over and done so that she could return to the school.
“I like school. I want to go to school,” Azaria said at the time, as she sat on her mother’s lap eating a pink ice-lolly.
However, an emotional Worrell who said that she was trying to remain strong for Azaria’s twin sister Lazaria and 11-year-old brother Keagan, said that three weeks ago, doctors told her that it was time for the child to get her wish of returning to school.
The 30-year-old mother recalled that the medical team also told her to try her best to honour whatever other wishes Azaria had, because tests had shown that the chemotherapy was not working and the cancer was multiplying and getting aggressive fast.
“About three weeks ago she was in there and the doctors met with the family and said ‘this is now for Azaria’. They said there was nothing more they could do for her,” Worrell said as she stood outside her Doughlin Road, Weston, St James home.
Looking toward the sunset, the grieving mother said the death of a child leaves one of worst feelings a mother could ever experience.
“She got her wish of going to school. The doctor told me they want her to spend as much time as possible with family. The doctor said this child is determined to go to school, so let her go,” Worrell recalled.
After the chemotherapy caused Azaria to lose her hair, her mother and aunt Akylia Worrell, cut their hair in support.
This evening, Akylia declared that though she watched her niece take her last breath, Azaria’s bubbly personality would forever live in her heart.
Akylia said she admired Azaria’s determination to keep fighting over the past few weeks.
“She was in a lot of pain yesterday. Around six in the evening she started complaining for her head and stomach and bawling. She didn’t want to sit or stand up; she did not know what to do with herself. I know something was wrong because through this, Azaria never cried.
“She got some pain medication around 9 last night and like minutes after she woke to acknowledge my uncle and she called me to help her turn because she was drowsy. She went back to sleep and never woke back up,” Akylia recalled, as she recalled her niece’s last moments on earth.
It was difficult for Azaria’s grandmother Mary Worrell to hold back the tears.
She said she would never forget her granddaughter’s powerful voice, asking her to help her out of her pain.
“That was my girl. I had to prepare her food when she was in hospital and when she was home. She had a menu from Sunday to Sunday and I had to fulfill that menu.
“I was the last person to wipe her mouth this morning. So for me right now, it’s a hard loss. I am trying to cope. She went home very peacefully this morning. No crying, no bawling, no pain,” the grandmother said.
Mary said that though doctors warned the family that Azaria only had about three weeks to live, she was hoping she would be around to spend Christmas with her loved ones.
“To be truthful we weren’t seeing it because Azaria was a child full of life, bright, pretty, bouncy. It was only yesterday evening that we saw it was coming. I feel good within myself that she got to go back to school because that was her wish.
“She planned a family picnic two weeks ago, and we went out and she had a good time. Independence Day she wanted some of her friends over and we did that for her and she enjoyed herself,” Mary said.
St Alban’s Principal Wendine Prince, who was present at the family home to offer Azaria’s loved ones support, said the entire school community was rocked by the loss of the child who was probably, “the most popular girl at school”.
The principal said when she arrived at school after being away on school business, the news had already spread and students and teachers were crying uncontrollably.
Mary who works at the school as a parent volunteer in charge of the before and after care programme, and the Blossoms programme, had already called and broke the news to the senior teacher who also happens to be Azaria’s class teacher.
“Pinky [as Azaria was affectionately called] made you know her. Even the smallest child in the school knows Pinky. Anything that happened in the school she would come to me.
“The other twin Lazaria would be in the background, but Pinky was the dominant force. You gravitated towards Pinky because she had this effervescent, full of life personality. She loved school. She was hospitalized and she demanded we send homework to her,” Prince said.
The principal said she was amazed that though Azaria missed school for the entire term, last week she participated in an end of term examination and results showed that she had performed better than those who attended classes.
“We were a little cautious because we didn’t want her to pick up anything.
“But the doctor contacted me a few Saturday’s ago and told me what was happening and said to me she wanted Pinky to return to school. So I told her we would organize.
“The Tuesday she was supposed to come she had to be hospitalized and we took some students there . . .This is so hard. I broke down today when I made the call to the Chief Education Officer to inform her of her passing,” Prince said.
The relatives thanked the medical team at the QEH who “took good care” of Azaria during her illness.