INSPIRATIONAL children from across the North East have been recognised for their bravery in the face of serious illness.
This year’s Brave Heart Awards saw the spotlight shone on scores of worthy youngsters who have overcome challenges most people of their age would never be faced with.
St James’ Park played host to the awards, which were presented by TV presenter Carol Malia alongside Newcastle United players Mike Williamson and Romain Amalfitano, who provided all the winners with gifts including iPads and Nintendo Wiis.
One deserving nominee was Jessica Easton, from Ponteland, Northumberland, who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in March last year after mother Susan spotted a lump in the nine-year-old’s armpit.
Susan, an accountant, assumed it may have been glandular fever but it never crossed her mind that it could have been cancer.
“We took her to the doctors and they took some blood, and that night we had a phone call saying there was a query and we had to go into the hospital the next day.
“We’re quite an optimistic family so we didn’t think anything was wrong but we were in the hospital for ages, and it was at about 6pm that night when the doctor took me to one side to tell me my daughter had leukaemia.
“We were taken straight up to the ward and Jessica was prepped for surgery the next day, so from diagnosis to major surgery it was less than 12 hours. Jessica was very upset. It was extremely traumatic.”
Susan and husband Steven, a 46-year-old IT manager, praised staff at the Royal Victoria Infirmary where Jessica underwent a number of treatments and procedures and also praised their daughter who they say deserves all the recognition she can get for her stoic approach to it all.
“She had a really positive attitude and just got on with it and was just desperate to get back to school,” added Susan.
Also picking up an award was Amelia Loftus who was also diagnosed with leukaemia in March this year. The seven-year-old was nominated for a Brave Heart award for her “engaging” attitude and ability to keep smiling despite suffering a number of unpleasant side effects as a result of her painful treatment.
Proud father Phil, from Durham, said: “She kept us all going because she got on with it. Thinking of some of the procedures she had to go through makes me think she’s nothing short of amazing.
“She coped with the hair loss really well and never let it bother her. Obviously she has had her down days but on the whole she has been very positive.”
The 39-year-old mechanical supervisor added: “It was a nice surprise to find out she was getting an award and she was so excited beforehand. It’s really cheered her up.”
A total of 36 youngsters were presented with an award. They included seven-year-old Saffat Khan, from Newcastle’s West End, Mya Simpson, five, from Ashington, Northumberland, Elizabeth McCaffrey, five, from Sunderland, Sophia Evans, five, from Berwick, Northumberland, and Anthony Dodds, 10, of Lemington, Newcastle.