Around 200 people turned out to show their support for brave Barnstaple teenager Katie Gammon yesterday by taking part in an emotional fundraising walk.
Friends, family and supporters of the 15-year-old cystic fibrosis sufferer, who recently underwent a life-saving double lung transplant at Great Ormond Street Hospital, gathered at Barnstaple’s Civic Centre car park at midday.
Park Community School pupil Katie, who won Child of Courage in this year's Journal Community Awards, has battled cystic fibrosis since she was a little girl.
She has spent much of the last year in and out of hospital battling infections and, after her lungs’ ability to function deteriorated to below 20 per cent, she was told her only hope of surviving was to undergo a lung transplant.
She spent 14 months on the transplant list waiting for a suitable donor, before receiving the life-saving transplant just two weeks before her fifteenth birthday in August.
The teenager, who has since returned home to Barnstaple, is now on the road to recovery.
At yesterday's fundraising event, she was joined by Honiton organ donation campaigner Kirstie Tancock, who also received a second lung transplant during the same weekend in August.
Katie, who took part in the five-mile walk, said she wanted to raise money for the people and organisations which had helped her over the years.
She said: “It means a lot that all my family and friends have come along today.
“It’s been tough and a battle and it’s still quite a struggle. I’ve lost my hearing and I’ve got diabetes as a result of the transplant, but my lungs are a lot better.
“I’m feeling great now. I’ve got more energy all of the time.”
Friend of the family Jodie Gibson, who pushed her 15-month-old son Jamie along during the walk, lost a friend to Cystic Fibrosis a few years ago.
The 27-year-old from Barnstaple said: “My friend was only 21 when she died, I was pregnant with Jamie and she never got to meet him. I know Katie’s family really well so I’m doing the walk for both of them. I want to support everything that is Cystic Fibrosis because people don’t realise how many lives it kills.”
Rita Barrow, 45, from Forches, Barnstaple, described Katie as “brilliant” and said: “She’s done ever so well. We’re so proud of her.”
Relative Katrina Barrow, 42, from Barnstaple, added: “I think she’s absolutely amazing. She’s so lucky to have come through this.”
All proceeds raised from the five-mile walk will be split between Great Ormond Street Hospital, the Caroline Thorpe ward at North Devon District Hospital and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.