Express & Star

Friends pitch in to help buy headstone for beloved girl who died days after turning six

A fundraiser has been launched to buy a headstone for a Wolverhampton girl who died just days after her sixth birthday.

Ava-Marie sadly died just days after her sixth birthday.

Ava-Marie Watkins-Charlton was diagnosed with the life-limiting condition spinal muscular astrophy type 1, around seven months after she was born.

Doctors feared she wouldn't see her first birthday, but little Ava-Marie spent six years with her family before sadly dying in May last year.

A fundraiser has now been organised by a family friend, Hannah Allen, to buy a headstone for Ava-Marie which her loving family can visit at Bushbury Crematorium.

At the time of writing, £390 had been raised towards the fundraising target of £4,500.

Hannah said: "Ava-Marie was born on May 20, 2016. She was a healthy newborn until eight weeks old, when she suddenly went 'floppy'.

"Despite numerous GP appointments, it wasn't until Ava-Marie became breathless in December 2016 that she was rushed to hospital, where she remained for 23 days.

Ava-Marie sadly died just days after her sixth birthday

"Whilst Ava-Marie was in hospital numerous tests were done and shortly before her discharge from hospital she was diagnosed with a life-limiting condition of spinal muscular atrophy type 1 and Ava's mum was told she might not make her first birthday.

"Heartbreaking news for any parent to hear, but Ava's mum and family stayed strong and held it together for Ava."

Over the years, Ava-Marie visited several hospitals and was a frequent inpatient due to having a very weak immune system.

Ava-Marie sadly died just days after her sixth birthday

She was also fed via a nasal gastric tube which was decorated with a giraffe pattern, as can be seen in several photos.

Ava-Marie sadly died just days after her sixth birthday

Over time, Ava-Marie suffered from a collapsed lung, respiratory attacks, and a hypoxic brain injury which caused her to lose her sight and speech, as well as making her prone to seizures.

Although she regained her sight after being intubated and ventilated for 11 days, sadly she never regained her speech, and she suffered from regular cardiac and respiratory arrests between 2019 and 2022.

Hannah went on to say: "In October 2021 Ava-Marie went on her first ever holiday to Rhyl in Wales on a caravan holiday.

"She made the best entrance with a cardiac arrest which resulted in five hours at the local hospital, but then was let out to return to the caravan and continue her holiday, which she thoroughly enjoyed. She didn't want to go home.

Ava-Marie sadly died just days after her sixth birthday

"She continued to have a fairly good life with regular days out shopping which she loved."

Ava-Marie sadly died just days after her sixth birthday

Sadly, things took a turn for the worse on April 27, 2022, when Ava suffered a cardiac arrest and was transferred to the Royal Stoke Hospital's intensive care unit for children.

An MRI at the hospital showed a significant change since her last scan, showing issues with her body temperature, heart rate, heart rhythm, and seizures.

Hannah said: "Ava-Marie celebrated her sixth birthday in hospital with all of her family around her.

"Then her mom had to make the hardest decision of her life, to bring Ava home to spend her last moments surrounded by her family and friends due to Ava not improving and being in constant pain.

"Ava-Marie sadly passed away peacefully at home on Thursday, May 26, 2022 at 2pm."

Ava-Marie sadly died just days after her sixth birthday

To donate to the fundraiser, go to Hannah Allen's fundraiser page on