THE heartache of a gravely ill baby boy and his loving parents from Dubbo has brought Prince William and wife Kate close to tears.
The royal couple were visiting children's hospice Bear Cottage at Manly when they met 10-month-old Max McIntyre and his parents, Rob and Amy.
The bonny baby boy contracted bacterial meningitis six weeks ago and doctors said he had just days to live.
Max's struggle touched the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during the emotional meeting on Friday that was "quiet special, not rushed".
"I think they were fighting tears as much as I was," Amy said.
The loving and first-time mother recalled how the royal couple gave Max their attention, "admiring his locks, his blond hair".
"Kate was stroking his hair, stroking his leg," Amy said.
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"I think it was a shock to them because he doesn't look sick, he just looks like he's asleep."
Prince George, the first child of the duke and duchess, was born in July just two months after baby Max but the two couples now share more than parenthood together.
The palliative care of sick children is a cause close to Kate's heart, and she is a patron of East Anglia Children's Hospice in the United Kingdom, one of the first patronages she took on after her marriage in 2011.
The duchess praised Bear Cottage and its staff in a speech, saying the haven created was "inspirational", sentiments Amy and Rob echoed yesterday.
"This place is amazing, we would not have been able to do it without them," Amy said.
The couple were strong advocates for more centres like Bear Cottage, one of only two children's hospices in Australia.
It provided a comfortable and intimate setting impossible in a hospital.
"It's warm and happy, although it's sad as well," Amy said.
"It's a very caring place and that's what you need when you're in this situation and far from home.
"It's like our little home at the moment.
"It's nice to be here with him and have the support of the nurses and the other staff."
Bear Cottage's art therapist brought to fruition a poignant artwork that Rob and Amy were able to see presented to the royal couple.
Prints of Max's "cute little button toes" and all the other children's fingerprints featured in the artwork with a special message.
"We are as unique as our fingerprints," it read.
"There is no foot too small that it can not leave an imprint on this world."
Amy said its presentation was emotional, but they were glad Max was part of it.
As the loving care of Max continued at the weekend, his story went across the globe, featuring in the UK press's coverage of the Bear Cottage visit.
"He's a special little boy - he's touched a lot of people far and wide," Amy said.