Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Barnstaple youngster to lead annual Tarka Walk weeks after life-saving surgery.
BRAVE Barnstaple teenager Katie Gammon, 15, is urging people to join her on an emotional fund-raising walk on Saturday.
Just two months after receiving a life-saving double lung transplant at Great Ormond Street Hospital, cystic fibrosis sufferer Katie will be leading a five-mile walk along the Tarka Trail.
It’s the third Tarka Walk event her family has organised in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. An event in 2011 raised £1,500, while last year’s walk raised £7,000.
Katie was too poorly to take part last year, so Saturday’s event means more to her than ever.
“I have so much more energy now; I can walk and laugh properly,” said Katie, whose lung function has risen from 14 per cent to nearly 74 per cent since her transplant.
“Last year I was unable to take part in the walk – even in a wheelchair – due to an infection but this year I’m going to walk as much as I can.
“I don’t get out of breath at all any more and am now concentrating on building my strength up.
“I’ve been going to the gym at the hospital and using the cross-trainer, bike and balance ball.”
"I have so much more energy now; I can walk and laugh properly."
Katie will be supported on the day by Honiton organ donation campaigner Kirstie Tancock, who by coincidence is recovering herself after receiving a second lung transplant during the same weekend in August.
Katie’s mum Angie Hart said: “Katie and Kirstie have followed each others’ journeys and have kept in contact.
“We invited Kirstie to take part in the walk and are delighted that she’s agreed to come.”
Park Community School pupil Katie has not been able to go to school since February last year but hopes to be given the all clear to return to class on November 4.
"Last year I was unable to take part in the walk – even in a wheelchair – due to an infection but this year I’m going to walk as much as I can."
“I’m not allowed to mix properly at the moment due to the risk of infection but I’m looking forward to going back and seeing all my friends,” she said.
Mum Angie added: “Katie only has to go to Great Ormond Street once a fortnight now instead of every week – everyone there is so impressed with how she’s doing.
“They said that most people at this stage are still in hospital but Katie has always been determined from the word go – she’s a fighter.
“It’s hard to keep her down since she’s had her new lungs; she just wants to get up and go all the time.”
But despite Katie’s strong recovery, every day presents fresh challenges for the plucky teenager, who has to take antibiotics and will be dependent on anti-rejection medication for the rest of her life.
The combination of drugs means she now suffers from diabetes and has had problems with her hearing.
“Even though she has got new lungs, every day is still a battle,” said Angie.
“It’s not an easy ride – but I’m just glad she’s still here.”
Katie’s family friendly Tarka Walk leaves the civic centre car park at 12noon on Saturday.
The proceeds will be split between the CF Trust, Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Caroline Thorpe ward at North Devon District Hospital.
Entry is £6 for adults and £3 for under-15s. Under-fives go free.
Participants can sign up on the day but to register beforehand and for sponsorship forms, email Angie Hart at email@example.com or visit Tarka Walk 2013 on Facebook.