Ailing toddler Alfie Evans, whose plight has tugged at the world's heartstrings throughout the past week, died in the early hours of Saturday morning after being removed from life support.
In an April 28 Facebook post, Alfie's father, Tom Evans, said: “My gladiator lay down his shield and gained his wings at 02:30...absolutely heartbroken. I love you my guy.”
Just shy of two years old, Alfie had been in what physicians described as a “semi-vegetative state” due to a mysterious degenerative neurological condition that doctors at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, England have not been able to properly diagnose. He had been hospitalized since December of 2016.
Although Italian officials earlier this week granted Alfie citizenship and a Vatican-linked hospital offered to take the toddler for further diagnosis and treatment, UK courts repeatedly refused to allow the transfer, ruling that it is not in the child’s best interest.
With permission of the court, but against the will of Alfie’s parents, Tom Evans and Kate James, the hospital earlier this week removed Alfie’s ventilator and withheld food and water from the child.
Although the toddler was only expected to live for a few minutes, he was able to breathe on his own for a number of hours, until doctors administered oxygen and hydration. They later administered nutrition as well, after the boy went almost 24 hours without food, according to Alfie’s father.
Life support was again removed from Alfie after a last-minute appeal by his parents was struck down Wednesday. After the ruling, the toddler's parents released a statement thanking the doctors and hospital staff who cared for their son, saying they wanted to “build bridges” with Alder Hey.
Rallies in support of Alfie’s parents have been held throughout the week in London, Washington, D.C., New York and the Vatican, with pilgrims gathering to pray the rosary in St. Peter's Square each night leading up to the toddler's death.
Pope Francis has also been outspoken about supporting the child’s parents.
The pope, who met with Alfie’s father last week, has offered public prayers for Alfie and his family several times, including at a general audience and in several Twitter posts.
“Moved by the prayers and immense solidarity shown little Alfie Evans, I renew my appeal that the suffering of his parents may be heard and that their desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted,” he said on Twitter Monday.