THE family of a seven-year-old girl who died after a lifelong battle with illness have paid tribute to ‘a bundle of love’.

Severely disabled Crystal Marie Perkins, of Snape Street, Darwen, died on Saturday but defied doctors’ expectations even to survive birth.

Her grandmother and legal guardian, Pauline Perkins, said Crystal ‘would be missed by many people’.

Crystal, who attended the specialist Newfield School in Shadsworth, Blackburn, was born with spina bifida, hydrocephalus (water on the brain), and severe kidney and lung problems.

The youngster - who left hospital for the first time at the age of four - also had a cleft palate, a displaced hip, epilepsy, deformed feet, and struggled to swallow.

Ms Perkins, 61, said Crystal’s life was blighted by their constant trips in and out of hospital.

She said: “Every night we went through the same routine with medicines. On Friday I put her to bed as normal at 8pm, checked on her at 10pm and she was fine.

“Then I went in at 2am and she was ice cold. Crystal has basically died four times before, but each time she was still warm and the doctors brought her round.

“I could sense it was different this time and I was just screaming. I still can’t go back into her room”

Crystal, who was partially sighted and partially deaf, underwent 15 operations before she was finally allowed to leave hospital in 2012.

Ms Perkins said she would cherish the memories of Crystal’s only three words - uh, hug, and nan.

She said: “She absolutely loved music. Every night after her medicine, we would stick a DVD on and put it on repeat through the night as she didn’t like the dark.

“We must have 100 DVDs and she really lit up when we watched them. She really made me smile.

“Crystal struggled to speak properly but the first word she ever said was ‘nan’ and I just picked her up and hugged her.”

Ms Perkins, who acted as Crystal’s full-time carer, praised paramedics who spent 90 minutes trying to revive her. She was later pronounced dead at Royal Blackburn Hospital.

Crystal’s funeral will take place from 1.45pm on April 15 at St Peter’s Church, Darwen, before a white horse and carriage will lead a cortège past Newfield School en route to Pleasington Crematorium. Donations to her memory can be made to Derian House.