- Kirsty Howard, 20, who had a back-to-front heart, passed away at 1.38am
- She was given only weeks to live at the age of four due to her condition
- But she beat the odds and went on to become an inspirational fundraiser
- Kirsty, from Wythenshawe, Manchester, was accompanied on stage by David Beckham at Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in 2002
- She also inspired the star to score winning goal in World Cup qualifier
Kirsty Howard – the young fundraiser who captured the hearts of the nation and inspired David Beckham to score the winning goal in a 2002 World Cup qualifier – has died at the age of 20.
The incredible young woman, who was one of only two children globally born with a back-to-front heart, passed away at 1.38am today – after doctors gave her just weeks to live at the age of four.
She took her final breath surrounded by her parents, Lynn and Steve, and sisters, Zoe and Kim, at Manchester Royal Infirmary, according to the Kirsty Club, a charity that was founded by Kirsty.
She had celebrated her 20th birthday only last month.
Scroll down for video
Tragic loss: Kirsty Howard has died aged 20 – after doctors gave her just weeks to live at the age of four. Above, Kirsty is seen, left, at her 20th birthday party last month and, right, in 2001 with David Beckham
Touching: Kirsty, who was born with a back-to-front heart, won legions of fans in 2001 when she accompanied Beckham onto the pitch with her oxygen tank as the mascot for England’s World Cup qualifier against Greece
Cute: The then-six-year-old is seen in 2002 smiling alongside Victoria Beckham, whom she reduced to tears
During her short life, Kirsty constantly defied doctors’ predictions and became a tireless fundraiser, raising more than a staggering £7.5 million for Francis House Children’s Hospital in Manchester.
She won a host of famous admirers, including prime ministers, pop stars and Hollywood actors.
In 2002, Kirsty, from Wythenshawe, was pictured being kissed on the cheek by Beckham as she helped him hand over the ceremonial baton as the Queen opened the Commonwealth Games.
The year before, she had won legions of fans after joining the sports star on the pitch with her 20kg oxygen tank as the mascot for England’s 2002 World Cup qualifying match against Greece.
At the time, commentator John Motson said the youngster was ‘the bravest person on the pitch’.
As she grew older, Kirsty continued to overcome her illness.
She studied childcare at college and gained an impressive 12 GCSEs.
Close bond: Beckham kisses Kirsty on the cheek (left), then leads her across the stage to the Queen (right)
She also became a proud auntie to her sister Kim’s little boy, Cooper.
Just several weeks ago, Kirsty had held a special Alice In Wonderland-themed party – which saw her and her loved ones dress up for a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party – to celebrate her 20th birthday.
But on Tuesday, she was admitted to hospital with a kidney infection, the Mirror Online reports.
Two days later, she suffered a cardiac arrest and was transferred to intensive care.
She sadly succumbed to her illness in the early hours of this morning.
News of Kirsty’s death was met with hundreds of messages of condolence on Twitter.
ITV News reporter Nina Nannar said: ‘So sad to hear about the incredible Kirsty Howard who has died, so privileged to have met her, what an inspirational brave young woman.’
Brave: Kirsty (left and right, with Davina McCall) also became a proud auntie before she passed away today
Amanda Sweeney, meanwhile, tweeted: ‘RIP #kirstyhoward such an inspirational and very strong brave young lady. You will be truly missed. Heaven has gained a true angel xx.’
And Karen Sutcliffe said: ‘So sad to hear Kirsty Howard has died. Such an inspirational young lady. My thoughts are with her family. #RIPKirsty.’
Born on September 20, 1995, Kirsty became the face of the charity appeal for Francis House Hospice, which was originally opened by Diana, Princess of Wales in 1991.
Her admirable charity work raised the funds necessary for the long-term future of its care for terminally-ill children and support for their parents.
The Kirsty Club was launched to expand and improve the service and as a lasting legacy to Kirsty’s bravery in battling her health condition while helping the lives of others.
Celebrity supporters of the appeal included Gloria Hunniford, former Harrods owner Mohamed Al-Fayed, Davina McCall and opera singer Russell Watson, who paid tribute to Kirsty on Twitter today.
In 2001, Kirsty received the Child of Courage Award.
A year later, she was awarded the Pride of Britain Award. And in 2004, the young fundraiser won the Helen Rollason Award for courage at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards.
In 2007, she was named Young Citizen of the Year by Manchester City Council.
Over the course of her life, Kirsty also met with Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha, Prince Charles, and former Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife, Cherie.