THE parents of young cystic fibrosis sufferer Rhys Godwyn of Newport knew he was living with a ticking timebomb.

But his death last week aged 21 was a massive shock. The former Duffryn High School pupil (pictured) died in Llandough hospital on Saturday morning, after his condition suddenly worsened.

His shocked parents, Shelagh and Lyndon Godwyn, of Orangery Walk, Duffryn, said they were totally unprepared for his death.

Dad Lyndon, aged 49, a technologist, said: "We thought he had a good ten years left in him yet. We never expected him to die so young. It just happened so suddenly and none of us was really prepared. We thought he would go in to hospital and come out as usual. It's far too young."

His parents described Rhys as a loving boy, passionate about football and a doting uncle to his bother Neil's three-year-old daughter Tamzin.

Mum Shelagh, 46, who works in Tesco in Spytty, said: "He was a very loving, very gentle boy with a wicked sense of humour.

"He idolised Tamzin. She doesn't know what's going on. It would be too difficult to tell her because she wouldn't understand."

Rhys was first diagnosed with cystic fibrosis aged 14 months. The genetic condition was passed down to him by his parents, who both carry the gene. His older brother Neil, 25, does not have the condition.

Lyndon said: "He kept having chest infections and ended up in the Royal Gwent Hospital with pneumonia. He had all sorts of tests and it came out that he had cystic fibrosis."

The condition is progressive, and the sufferer gets worse over time as the lungs become damaged and are unable to regenerate.

From the age of 14 Rhys started attending the Royal Gwent regularly with chest complaints. Then, from the age of 19, he was constantly in and out of Llandough hospital.

He also suffered from asthma, eczema and hay fever, but tried to lead a normal life, socialising with friends and following his beloved Manchester United and Wales at football.

Rhys could not play sports competitively, but enjoyed football with friends, and did judo when he was younger. He was also good at skittles, joining his parents playing for the West of England team in Pill.

Rhys attended Pillgwenlly Primary School then Duffryn High, and studied IT at Nash college.

Lyndon said: "Because his condition was getting worse he couldn't do too much after leaving college, but he worked part-time at the Shell garage on Chepstow Road. He dreamed of working in IT because he was a whiz with computers. He had just bought a new i-Mac, but never got the chance to use it."

Since May this year Rhys had been attending Llan-dough every week. Shelagh said: "He was a bit scared about what was going to happen. When we were alone he would say 'I'm frightened mum' but he would never let it get him down. He never complained."

Rhys's condition worsened last Friday while he was in Llandough and doctors said he probably would not make it through the day.

Lyndon said: "We had to be as brave as we could. Shelagh was in Belgium on a weekend away at the time. As soon as she got there I called her and told her to come back."

What followed was a 'nightmare journey' back across Europe for Shelagh to be at her son's side.

Shelagh said: "Our friends picked me up from Stanstead. The traffic around London was terrible because of George Bush's visit and there was also a crash."

It seemed like Shelagh wasn't going to make it but nurses at Llandough arranged a police escort from Membury Services to the Severn Bridge, where Gwent police took her to Llandough in a motorway patrol vehicle. She added: "I can't thank them enough for what they did."

Rhys died at 6.45am, surrounded by family and friends. Shelagh said: "It was lovely and peaceful, just the way he would have wanted it."

Now the couple are calling for more awareness of cystic fibrosis. "If you walked past Rhys in the street you wouldn't know there was anything wrong with him," his dad said.

"I don't think a lot of people are aware just how serious it is. "It's a dreadful, dreadful illness to have, like a ticking timebomb." The funeral will be tomorrow at St. Steven's Church, Pill, with cremation at Gwent Crematorium. Donations are for the Cystic Fibrosis Research Trust.