The family of a young schoolgirl who ‘always had her happy face on’ have been left devastated after she died suddenly of a ‘stomach bug’.
Maggie Black, five, fell ill in November and complained of feeling sick for a few days.
In the early hours of December 1, her family said she felt poorly but it did not seem ‘anything unusual’ until her condition rapidly deteriorated.
Mum Sheenagh called 999 for an ambulance but shortly afterwards Maggie stopped breathing.
Sister-in-law Margaret rushed to find a defibrillator and also called a family friend who dispatched the fire service who provided medical support until an ambulance arrived, more than an hour after their call.
Maggie was rushed to Antrim Area Hospital but died the same day.
Speaking for the family, Margaret told Belfast Live : “Maggie was a fun loving wee girl who always had her happy face on. She was a happy child who loved everybody.
Maggie had complained of a tummy ache before her condition deteriorated
Belfast Live WS)
"Her hobbies were TikTok, playing the fiddle, camogie, farming, long walks and she was very fond of a trip to the coffee shop for marshmallows after! She loved school and was a very bright, talented child.
"We have been overwhelmed by the support, people have been so thoughtful and kind."
The family are still waiting on post-mortem results to discover what had been wrong with Maggie.
They have also started a petition for the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service to be automatically dispatched in all similar situations, which has so far had more than 10,000 signatures.
Maggie (centre), pictured with her siblings Charlie (13) and Eimear (nine)
Belfast Live WS)
It reads: "On the morning of 1st December 2021 our lives changed forever, as we lost our innocent, fun-loving, beautiful 'Wee Maggie'.
“She was the light of our lives, who made an impression on everyone she met. We as a family will never be able to put into words the impact of that morning’s events.
"Whilst we are under no illusion about the pressures and strains on the ambulance service, it is surely unacceptable that we had to wait one hour and 10 minutes for an ambulance to arrive when our five-year-old daughter’s life was at stake.
Maggie was described as someone who loved school and always had her 'happy face on'
Belfast Live WS)
"We as a family and our community are truly shocked, worried and saddened that the dispatch of the fire service is not an automatic response in these situations.”
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "The Department of Health, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) and the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) extend their sincere condolences to the Black family and fully support any initiative to improve emergency medical cover in rural communities.
"As part of the emergency medical response to rural communities, a number of community responder schemes are in place across Northern Ireland which can be dispatched by NIAS alongside paramedics as required, however, there are currently none covering the Glenarm area.
"Whilst these community volunteers generally do not attend incidents involving children under the age of 12, due to the specialist training and equipment required, NIAS would welcome approaches from any group of volunteers who express an interest in creating new local groups, including in the Glens of Antrim region.
"NIAS and NIFRS met in November 2021 to consider how this model might be rolled out across Northern Ireland, and both organisations are working closely together to progress the development of a regional joint response model."