Heartbreaking tributes have been paid to a teenager who died after being neglected by staff at the John Radcliffe Hospital after his spinal surgery.

The sudden death of Zak Fairhurst, 18, came last February after being moved to an adult ward following his surgery, an inquest held at Oxford Coroner's Court heard this week.

The court heard how he should have been monitored every four hours after he had been given high doses of morphine but he was not properly checked between 10pm and 6.50am.

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His family have paid tribute to Zak, from Corby in Northamptonshire, calling him a "perfect bundle of joy".

Oxford Mail: Zak James John Fairhurst, aged 18.

When he was 18 months, the youngster contracted meningitis and was left with quadriplegic cerebral palsy, epilepsy, global development delay and scoliosis.

He was fed via a tube into his stomach and was non-verbal but communicated through gestures and sounds, the court was told. 

Victoria Fairhurst, Zak’s mother, said: “I had lost the Zak I knew, but I got him back in only the way he knew by giving you beautiful cuddles plenty of kisses and great big belly laughs when you made a fool of yourself.

“He had a fantastic sense of humour, and his smile would melt everyone he met.

“When he watched his TV programmes Balamory, Lazy Town, Something Special and Tom and Jerry, the giggles were great.

“We went to Disney Land in Florida twice and he loved all the characters and the attention they gave him. He loved all the shows and fireworks.

“He liked to be out about so he could be involved in the community and many a time people have spoken to Zak, and I didn’t know them, but he did."

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Oxford Mail: Zak James John Fairhurst, aged 18.

Other relatives' tributes to Zak were read out during the inquest which took place on Tuesday.

James Fairhurst, Zak’s Father, said: “Zak was full of life, he was a bright star, he was bigger than life, he was the life and soul of the party, and he had the best cuddle in the whole world. I love Zak to the moon and back.

“I want to tell the world how Zak was brilliant he was. I miss my son every minute of every day which makes it hard to get out of bed most days."

Oxford Mail: Zak James John Fairhurst and his family

Hannah Fairhurst, Zak’s sister, said: “As a brother Zak was perfect, he’d always greet me with his cheeky smile in the morning.

"It was a perfect way to start the day and now that he’s gone, I miss it more every day. Now I have to sleep next to an empty room that was once filled with joy.”

Elma Clark, Zak’s grandmother, said: “Zak was a very happy boy, he loved fun and everything around him.

“He loved to interact with other children and adults too. He was always smiling, and that beautiful smile melted the hearts of everyone who met him. Zak oozed love, affection, and happiness.

“I am so proud too of the progress he made as he grew into the beautiful young man he became. He filled my life with joy and happiness. I miss him so much.”

Dr Elaine Hill, acting chief medical officer at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are very sorry for the sad outcome following care at our Trust, and offer our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones at this very difficult time.

“While we are unable to publicly discuss the care of an individual patient, we have conducted a thorough internal investigation and this has been shared with the family and the coroner.

“As a result of the investigation report we have implemented improvements, including the provision of clearer education and guidance for staff caring for young people transitioning into adult services, including those with learning disabilities.”