KIRSTY HOWARD WINS THE ULTIMATE WOMAN OF COURAGE AWARD
I first met Kirsty Howard when I was invited by Paul Yaffe to host a Gala dinner in Liverpool in aid of The Kirsty Appeal. The iconic image few of us will never forget: six-year-old Kirsty Howard walking onto the pitch at Old Trafford with her hero David Beckham, smiling widely despite the oxygen cylinder trailing behind her. Kirsty was dying of a rare heart condition, and had just weeks to live – the same prognosis she'd been given two years earlier, but somehow beaten.
The miracle of her survival, her bravery and her spirit, moved Beckham to tears, and she later joined him to meet the Queen and launch the Commonwealth Games in 2002. But remarkably, Kirsty has survived to turn 19 – and although her condition could deteriorate at any moment, she has devoted her short life to leading a fundraising effort to raise money for Francis House Children's Hospice in Manchester.
"I owe a lot to the hospice because it offered respite for me and my family when I was growing up," Kirsty says. "I go there a few times a year to help gain independence – now, I can go shopping and to hospital appointments on my own. They've been amazing."
I met Kirsty shortly after she hit headlines as a little girl when Kirsty's Appeal was set up, to help with the £1.7m annual cost to keep the hospice and its support program for terminally ill children and parents, going – an appeal which eventually raised an incredible £5m.
One is really touched from the moment you meet Kirsty, I know I certainly was and have kept in touch with her over the years regularly interviewing her on my radio show. I was sadent to read that In 2014, a specialist confirmed that there was nothing more they could do for Kirsty – she'd be unlikely to survive a heart transplant. We 've all heard that before . Kirsty is a survivor simple as that. Although she continues to take drugs to strengthen her bones due to fractures in her spine. Yet she has been instrumental in raising donations which currently top £7.5m.
Yesterday she won the Cosmopolitans Ultimate Woman of Courage Award. At 19 she is a real woman of courage and I am proud that some how I have helped in a minuscule way to raise some money for her charity