CHILDREN with indomitable spirit have been honoured at a glittering ceremony for the way they have dealt with their severe and life-threatening medical conditions.
Some of the youngsters recognised at the Brave Hearts Awards have been battling since they drew their first breath and have only ever known a life in and out of hospital.
The strength of character these children have shown, despite their tender years, was acknowledged at a moving ceremony held at St James’ Park in Newcastle on Thursday.
Twenty-four of the region’s most deserving and inspirational young people took part in the special lunch, each receiving a crystal plinth and a gift of their choice.
Jack Brotton, 13, from Darlington was born with congenital heart disease and while in hospital he developed plastic bronchitis, which blocks the airways making it difficult to breathe.
After two false starts, Jack had a heart transplant earlier this year and he kept hospital staff spirits up with his cheeky personality by making everybody around him laugh.
His mother, Sarah Robson, said: “Jack is so worthy of this award because he is truly an inspiration to everyone.
“He is a young man and, given what he has been through, since the day he was born, a lot could be learned from Jack and his outlook on life.
“His illness was not something that has just happened to him.
“He has never known it to be any different.”
“He has always had to battle his whole life so he really does deserve this award.”
The Haughton Academy pupil, who has a brother and two sisters, received a short holiday as his prize so he can ‘make some memories’.
Ms Robson said: “He is absolutely made up with the award. He is beaming from ear-to-ear and he feels so lucky.
“Jack is a one-off and his smile can light up a room. He is an angel and that boy can light up the darkest of places.”
Chanel Murrish was just a minute old when she underwent open heart surgery earning her a place in the world record books.
Now five, despite having hypoplastic left heart syndrome, she takes part in multiple charity fundraising events each year and has raised over £10,000 for the British Heart Foundation and Children’s Heart Unit Foundation.
She has received the Durham County Council Chairman’s Award and a British Citizen Youth Award for her fundraising.
Her mother, Fay Murrish, said: “She is so fiery and determined and that is how she has got where she is.
“She has had a stroke and she has cerebral palsy so she struggles with her left side.
“Everything is a little bit harder for her to do but she never complains, never.
“She tries to do everything the same as every other child and that shows her determination.
“She also does a lot for everyone else.”
The Seaview Primary School pupil, from Seaham, who has two older brothers and a sister, received an iPad with a cover as her gift.
Eight-year-old Ryan Waites, from Dipton, near Stanley, has pulmonary artesia VSD and bronchial difficulties.
He has undergone seven open heart surgeries, which following complications after last year’s procedure, led to a 12 months in the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle recovering from it.
Ryan’s mother, Lisa, a support worker, said he has been so brave through all of his surgeries and he acts like nothing has happened.
She said: “He has been through so much this year and he has had to go through major surgery but he just gets on with it as if he hasn’t got a care in the world.
“He is thrilled with the award.”
Ryan, a pupil at Villa Real School in Consett, received an iPad as his gift.
Ms Waites said: “He is a happy-go-lucky little boy and I am super proud of him.”
Lillie Jayne Garner, seven, has hypoplastic left heart syndrome, and is unable to do much exercise at school, or play sports.
She has overcome every operation ‘like a star’, and goes to all her appointments with a smile on her face.
Lillie, the eldest of three girls, goes to Layfield Primary School in Yarm, and asked for a Nintendo Switch games console for so she can share it with her sisters.
Her mother, Natalie, from Yarm, said: “She literally has not stopped speaking about the awards since she got the letter to she had won it.
“She is over the moon and been really looking forward to the ceremony. She has been out shopping and got herself new shoes and a new dress. She is ecstatic.”