“I could still die any second”: Courage of Kirsty, 16, given weeks to live when she was four… still defying the odds as she prepares to take her GCSEs Kirsty Howard suffers from heart defect that could end her life at any timeSchoolgirl from Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester, has met a string of celebrities during her incredible life as a result of her charity work
Given just six weeks to live by doctors, Kirsty Howard was told she would be fortunate to be able to celebrate her fifth birthday.
But now, years later and having defied all of the odds, she is studying hard for her GCSE exams.
And despite still suffering from a rare heart defect which could end her life at any moment, she is determined to live life to the full.
Kirsty Howard, pictured here in 2009 with the Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha, has spent much of her life battling a rare heart defect
Star support: Kirsty with David Beckham when she was seven years-old (left); and in 2002 with Ronan Keating (right) when she turned on the Blackpool Christmas lights. She has raised in excess of 5m for charity
Party girl: Kirsty arrives at her school prom at Lancashire Cricket Club earlier this month
The 16-year-old schoolgirl from Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester, who has met a string of celebrities during her incredible life as a result of her charity work, says that she doesn”t think she is any different from her friends.
She told The Sun: “I feel lucky. I”ve got a great life and great friends. I”m just normal – I have my nails and hair done.
“I”ve had my tummy button pierced and I”d like a tattoo but I can”t because it could lead to infection.”
And despite balancing the commitments of her studying, she is even lending a hand to help start tomorrow”s Great Manchester Run.
Not wasting a moment, Kirsty is also keen to look ahead to the future – saying she has made a wish at Rome”s Trevi Fountain that she will one day become a mother.
Schoolgirl Kirsty Howard has defied all the odds to battle through against her heart condition
Survivor: Kirsty Howard, then aged six, with David Beckham at the start of the Commonwealth Games in 2002 – because of her rare medical condition she was not expected to survive – but she is now preparing for her GCSEs
The extraordinary 16-year-old has won a host of famous admirers during her lifetime.
Former England football star David Beckham was befriended by the youngster when she led out the England team at Old Trafford in 2001, for a World Cup qualifier against Greece in which her hero scored the winning goal.
A year later, she met Beckham again as she handed over the Golden Jubilee baton to the Queen at the opening ceremony for the Manchester Commonwealth games.
“Weeks to live”: Even now Kirsty, pictured here in 2004, said she knows she could die any second – but she has remarkably survived and continues to live a very full life
Kirsty even met Her Majesty the Queen during the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony in Manchester in 2002
Brave Kirsty Howard, pictured here in 2006, has spent her short life battling against the rare heart defect and is now preparing to take her GCSE exams
Kirsty has also spent time with David and Samantha Cameron, as well as former Prime Minister and his wife Tony and Cherie Blair.
Kirsty”s back to front heart
She was born with a back-to-front heart
Her heart problem has causing the misplacement of her internal organs
The condition is a form of situs ambiguus and can”t be cured with an operation
Kirsty needs a constant oxygen supply to keep her alive
She was is the only person in the UK, and only the second in the world, diagnosed with the condition in February 1999
She was initially only given only six weeks to live, but has defied the odds to reach her teens
Mingling with the stars hasn”t gone to Kirsty”s head, however, and just like many teenagers her age she loves going to the cinema with friends – with posters of her movie idol Robert Pattinson filling-up the walls of her bedroom.
In 2004 she won the Helen Rollason Award for courage at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards.
As a youngster, she was also chosen as the face of the 5million Kirsty Club appeal for the Francis House Children”s Hospice in Didsbury, Manchester.
She continues to appeal through The Kirsty Club which aims to make the hospice even bigger and better.
The money raised by The Kirsty Club will be used to expand Francis House to help meet the needs of more than 900 families of children with a short life expectancy.
Having reached her teenage years she also has big hopes for the future.
She admits she doesn”t have a boyfriend yet, but would love to have a big wedding with Beckham as the guest of honour.
She said in The People: “I lead a normal life. I go to school. I have lots of friends. I spend every night texting, going on the computer and watching TV.
“I love Corrie and Eastenders and especially Britain”s Got Talent and The X Factor. I”ve also started salsa dance lessons with my sister. I can get out of my wheelchair to do it. Its so much fun.
Kirsty, who has had 11 major operations, added: “It”s not been easy, but this is who I am and its helped me do a lot of good for others.
“My secret is to be positive, not to let anything get me down.”
Celebrity support: Kirsty with Victoria Beckham and British singer Victoria Beckham (R), Mohamed al Fayed as she launched a fundraising drive