A COUPLE have paid tribute to their “brave and loving” daughter, who lost her battle for life aged just nine months.

Scarlett Rose Tootell was born 14 weeks premature last June and had chronic lung disease and other complications.

Despite weighing just 2lbs at birth, the tot amazed parents Christie Bates and Martin Tootell with her fighting spirit and strong personality.

However, due to her condition, she never left the neo-natal unit at Sharoe Green Hospital, Preston, apart from a two-hour outing to feed the ducks with her mum and dad.

Christie, 27, who lives with Martin, her partner of five years, in Carrington Road, Chorley, said Scarlett’s legacy would stay with them forever.

She said: “There were no indications during my pregnancy she was going to be so premature.

“Her little lungs weren’t ready and she needed a lot of care but she battled hard.

“She was on a ventilator a lot of the time but she showed the strength to put weight on and progress. The hardest thing is losing her after getting to know her character.

“She knew what she liked and what she didn’t and would smile all the time. She was in the neo-natal unit for so long she developed a bond with all the nurses. Some of them called her ‘the boss in the corner’.”

Care assistant Christie and Martin, who works in the meat industry, were hoping to have Scarlett home for Christmas but she was not strong enough.

However, last month, the couple were able to have their only outing with Scarlett.

Martin, said: “It was only to the duck pond at the hospital but that didn’t matter. It helped us bond with her so much and we’ll always treasure it.”

Scarlett died on March 19 after suffering cardiac arrest.

Martin said: “Knowing my daughter has made me a better man and us a stronger couple.”

Amid the heartbreak of losing their daughter has come joy as Christie has recently announced to friends and family that she’s pregnant again and is due to give birth in the autumn.

Scarlett’s funeral will be held at Sacred Heart Church, Brooke Street, Chorley, at 1.15pm tomorrow.

A collection will me made to contribute to research into chronic lung disease and for neo-natal care at Sharoe Green.