A talented young Nigerian footballer has sadly died after a mystery bug bite which started off with earache and caused him hallucinations and seizures.
The grieving family of Josh Ayuba, 18, have paid tribute to “an amazing son” who was “intelligent” and “always smiling”.
Tragically in his final few days he was so ill he couldn’t even recognise them.
His family are waiting to hear from health experts if tests have revealed what killed their son and brother.
Josh, of Portslade, near Brighton, died on Sunday evening, two weeks after complaining about an extremely painful earache which caused him to miss football training.
His worried family and his football team manager, Mark Hilfiker, urged him to see his doctor because he was becoming distressed.
Josh, a “talented right-midfielder” initially went to his GP where he was given medicine.
But after not being able to eat and sleep properly for five days, he returned to the clinic where another doctor immediately sent him to the A and E department at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton.
An unknown bacteria had formed and reached his brain, which started causing him to hallucinate and suffer numerous seizures.
Last Tuesday, he was put in the intensive care unit, and from then onwards he could not even recognise his own family, to their despair.
Josh died at around 7pm on Sunday night, and he leaves behind an abundance of people who loved him, especially his two sisters Ruth and Jubilee.
Elder sister Ruth, 25, sent a plea to youngsters across the city.
“We encourage everyone to make sure they go for vaccination” she urged.
“Live life to the fullest and spend time with your family, because it’s the hardest thing knowing you won’t get that time back.”
Firm believers in Christianity, the Ayuba family said they are praying for Josh’s friends at ‘an extremely painful time’.
Ruth said: “Josh would want them to have the most fulfilling version of their lives possible.
“Thank you for all the weird banter we shared. We would laugh at random stuff and make fun of mum’s Filipino accent.
“And thank you for giving me another opportunity in life. I won’t waste the way I live my life.”
Younger sister Jubilee, 17, said: “I will always remember randomly laughing at things with him. I miss hearing his laugh.”
Josh had a Staffordshire bull terrier , Blue, who he loved dearly, and one of the last things he did was take his pet for a walk at Devil’s Dyke.
Ruth revealed their father, Olu Ayuba, said “I will never forget you Josh. Love you always.”
And his mum Estrella added: “He was the most amazing son.
“There were many times we would be struggling, for example when there wasn’t much dinner left. Josh would always say ‘mum, you have it’ and it would go on and on. He had a very generous heart.”
A boy of many talents, Josh excelled in all aspects of his life.
Estrella, 56, continued: “He was very intelligent. His teachers would always say how clever he is.”
Josh finished studying at Portslade Aldridge Community Academy this year and was preparing to move to Bournemouth to study economics before his tragic death.
When he finished college, Josh began working in sales at a call centre.
His mother added: “They said he was one of the best salesmen on his team.”
But he also loved sport and was a ‘valuable, much-loved member’ of Southwick Football Club after joining their Under-21s in June as a talented right-midfielder, said manager Mark Hilfiker.
“He was a lovely lad. In pre-season someone pulled out of our match against Saltdean, and we asked Josh to play” said Mark.
“He got the bus all the way from his to come and play because he didn’t want to let anyone down.
“Josh was always chatting and always smiling. It’s devastating what’s happened.”
Southwick under-21s’ match against Hassocks was postponed on Sunday out of respect for Josh, along with the first team game at home to Oakwood.
On Thursday, the under-21s will face Hassocks, and Mark has requested both sides wear black armbands for Josh and hold a one minute’s silence before the match.
“We’re going ahead with the match on Thursday because I think it’s what Josh would have wanted” said Mark, who felt the lad had the potential to become a county league footballer.
Mark is appealing for a picture of Josh so that he can put it up in the team’s clubhouse to remember his young player.