Northern Ireland news

Co Fermanagh family to raise funds in memory of much-loved daughter

Rachael Shannon from Ballinamallard died in February after she developed sepsis

THE family of a Co Fermanagh woman who suffered from a heart condition since birth are to celebrate her "zest for life" at a special fundraising event in her memory.

Rachael Shannon (27) from Ballinamallard died in February after she developed sepsis.

She was born with a genetic condition called Noonan Syndrome, which meant she had heart defects present at birth and had undergone heart surgery in 2016.

Her death was not connected to her heart condition, but her family have organised an event to support the British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland (BHF NI) to fund vital research for other children born with congenital heart conditions.

A passionate supporter of Ballinamallard Football Club, Ms Shannon's family and friends will hold a bucket collection at the club's home match on Saturday followed by a barbeque and music.

All money raised will be shared between BHF NI and the club, where Ms Shannon was a member of the ladies committee.

Her mother Wendy paid tribute to her daughter's fiercely independent spirit and love for life.

"Rachael was born with a condition called Noonan's Syndrome that meant she had several congenital heart defects," she said.

"She did have some special needs, but not once did it hold her back. She went to mainstream primary school and secondary school and then at GCSE she transferred on to Erne Special School where she just thrived.

"She completed an NVQ3 in childcare and then volunteered at a local nursery. She loved children and they just loved her. She also worked in my sister's restaurant, and she loved it, everyone there just treated her as part of the crew.

"She lived her life with such grace and dignity in everything she did. Nothing ever held her back. She did have heart surgeries throughout her life, but she always got through them and had such a zest for life."

Her mother said the family wanted to organise a "day in her honour".

"She achieved so much in her 27 years, more than most people achieve in a lifetime," said Wendy.

"We hope Saturday will be a day to pay tribute to Rachael and raise much-needed funds for BHF NI and Ballinamallard FC."

Fearghal McKinney from BHF NI said: "The love and pride they had in Rachael just shines through when they talk about her.

"We are incredibly grateful to them for supporting our life saving work.

"Each day, around 13 babies in the UK are diagnosed with congenital heart disease. Often, we don't understand why the baby's heart hasn't developed properly.

"But we're funding research to find crucial breakthroughs.

"So, we can improve the way we diagnose and treat babies, children and adults born with congenital heart disease, and beat the heartbreak caused by these conditions."

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