You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Tragic toddler Poppy-Mai Barnard who "married" her hero dad and came second to 'Boaty McBoatface' dies

Mirror Mirror 4/05/2016 Kelly Strange
© Provided by Mirror

A tragic toddler who grabbed the world's attention when she came second to Boaty McBoatface in contest for the naming of a new polar research vessel has died.

Poppy-Mai Barnard's father ‘married’ her to fulfil his promise to give her a white wedding when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Heartbroken dad Andy announced his "princess" had "grown her angel wings" this afternoon.

The one-year-old died in her father’s arms while her mother stroked her hair at home at 1.16pm today.

Mr Barnard said his family was ‘heartbroken’, but more determined than ever to raise enough to build a retreat in her memory to help other families of sick children.

He released a poignant poem he had written about his daughter and pledged to fulfil his promise to her to raise £100,000 to build a centre to help other kids.

He said: ‘We will keep our promise to our princess. Poppy-Mai’s death will not be in vain. We thank everyone who has donated from the bottom of our hearts, focusing on building this has kept us strong and it will be achieving this for her that keeps us going.

‘We could not save Poppy-Mai but we can do this for her and we will. Her legacy will live on. She has touched lives around the world and will never be forgotten.’

The little girl gained worldwide fame when her name was narrowly beaten by Boaty McBoatface to win a competition to name a new polar research ship launched by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Three days ago Mr Barnard, 31, had told their 30,000 followers that Poppy-Mai had been growing more sleepy. His heart wrenching post told how she was sleeping, but occasionally her eyes would flicker.

In a post this afternoon Mr Barnard who serves with the RAF 27 squadron said: "Poppy-Mai Indi Barnard, our beautiful princess, grew her angel wings this afternoon at 13.16.

"She was in my arms with her mummy stroking her head. I miss her already. Our princess is now at peace I thought it was the right thing to let all of you special people know."

His wife Sammi, 29, later added: "Today I watched our beautiful baby grow her angel wings, as much as it hurt me to know I will never watch my baby grow, laugh, smile again, she is at peace now, no more pain and suffering.

"She fought the biggest battle and gave us a lifetime of happy memories in her short life which will stay with me for forever."

© Provided by Mirror

Mr Barnard and his wife Sammi had been told that Poppy-Mai could have just two days to live on March 16 this year.

The couple decided against further chemotherapy treatment because it was making her so unwell.

They took her home to be with Rylee, six and Jenson-Jay, four, and were astonished when she appeared to briefly regain her strength and sparkle.

Her father said the way Poppy-Mai had captured hearts around the globe meant she had already achieved far more in her life than he ever would.

He said: "We have been sharing her story to raise awareness to save other lives and to raise funds to build a permanent centre for other families.

"It gives us strength and comfort to do that when we can’t do a lot else."

He vowed not to rest until the mission was complete.

The fundraising currently stands at £29,000, short of its £100,000 target.

Andy had dreamed of walking his princess down the aisle and vowed she would one day have the perfect wedding.

Determined to see their dreams come true, Andy’s RAF colleagues hastily arranged a 'wedding day' for Poppy-Mai and the beautiful little bride ‘married’ her hero father.

Poppy-Mai was escorted to the aisle by her mother and big brothers.

Andy who serves with the RAF 27 squadron regiment said: "From the moment we found out Poppy-Mai was a girl I’ve said she’d have the wedding of her dreams one day.

"I never, ever thought it would be like this. Our hearts are broken forever, but I wanted to keep my promise to my princess. It wasn’t how I imagined, but she got her wedding day."

It was just six weeks ago that the Bernard family had the world turned upside down.

On February 14 mum Sammi took Poppy-Mai to the doctors. The usually playful toddler had gone off her food and drink and was constipated with a distended tummy.

Sammi had also noticed she seemed off balance. Their GP put the little girl’s symptoms down to teething and prescribed a laxative.

But Poppy-Mai grew worse and Sammi noticed a lump appear under her rib cage.

Now refusing all food and drink and unwilling to walk, Sammi took her back to the GP ten days later.

A different doctor prescribed a stronger laxative. But the following afternoon on February 25th Sammi was so concerned she drove her daughter to their local A&E.

The toddler, who had now started vomiting, was immediately admitted as doctors battled to stabilise her.

Sammi said: "Her calcium levels were way too high and they had to address that first before they could start to work out what was wrong.

"At the worst I thought she maybe had a really bad infection."

Sammi’s father who was serving with his squadron in America was kept informed over the phone.

Only later that day an ultrasound revealed what appeared to be a mass in her stomach.

Sammi said: "The consultant sat me down and said: ‘You know this is much worse than constipation now, don’t you?'

© Provided by Mirror

"I did. But when he said they suspected cancer I was shocked." Sammi was told that they suspected her daughter had Wilms – a type of kidney cancer in children.

The heartbroken mum had to break the news to her husband over the phone and bosses arranged for him to be flown back to the UK to be with his daughter who was being transferred to Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge.

She was thrilled to see her daddy again but there was bad news when a CT scan revealed the mass on her kidney had started to spread and speckles were detected in the Poppy -Mai’s lungs.

But just one week on the speckles had already grown into masses.

Doctors diagnosed a malignant rhabdoid tumour in her kidneys and lungs – a very rare and aggressive type of cancer.

She started chemotherapy and appeared to respond well. But on March 16 cancer was found in her brain.

The size and position of the tumour above her right eye meant it was inoperable and she was given two days to live.

More than 30,0000 people followed the family’s journey on their Facebook page and the tot and her brothers received gifts from across the UK every day from well wishers.

Mr Barnard said there were so many he had began donating items daily to local charity shops.

He said: "People’s kindness has been extraordinary, they took Poppy-Mai to their hearts and to know she was so loved makes us so proud."

© Provided by Mirror

The poem Andy Barnard wrote for Poppy-Mai

Poppy-Mai what can I say

I watch you in awe everyday

Never before have I felt such love

You'll soon be an angel up above

I follow your lead everyday

I hide my feelings, tuck them away

I cry inside but show you a smile

Your stronger than me by a mile

Inspirational & Courageous are just two

Of the best words to describe you

You keep on going, I don't know how

For that Princess I take a bow

Many memories have been made

I'd rather that you'd have stayed

My One True Love is getting sleepy

It makes me feel rather weepy

My emotions have run wild

My precious Princess, my beautiful child

I wish I could make this go away

My precious Princess Please Please stay

You have taught me many things

And soon you'll grow you Angel Wings

Your time on earth is nearly done

I'll hold you close and rub your tum

Your beautiful eyes they tell a story

At the end of this there is no glory

So at peace you will be

The pain in my face you will not see

Poppy-Mai you are my HERO

I wish I could reduce this cancer to ZERO

Your a special girl, my shining star

I'll still talk to you babe from a far

Poppy-Mai what can I say

I watch you I awe everyday

This is a Poem from a Proud and Broken Daddy

To help build the centre in memory of Poppy-Mai please visit www.gofundme.com/poppy-mai

More from The Mirror

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon