Saturday 3 December 2016

Graham Norton leads tributes to 'inspirational' Irish teen after she loses battle with heart disease

Published 21/03/2016 | 07:33

Graham Norton with Elaine O’Driscoll, mum of Helen Fennell, before last night’s concert in the Everyman Palace Theatre. Picture: Miki Barlok
Graham Norton with Elaine O’Driscoll, mum of Helen Fennell, before last night’s concert in the Everyman Palace Theatre. Picture: Miki Barlok

Graham Norton has led tributes to "an inspirational" teenager at a fundraiser in her memory.

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The chat show presenter hosted an evening in memory of Helen Fennell, from Bandon, Co Cork, who died only months after a heart transplant.

Helen was a huge fan of The Graham Norton Show and admitted that an audience visit to the London set not long after surgery was "the best night of my life".

Her mum, Elaine, was a classmate of Norton's at Bandon Grammar.

She said her daughter's life had been "full of joy".

Yesterday's fundraiser, Graham Norton and Friends, was held at Cork's Everyman Palace Theatre.

The presenter described Helen as "a remarkable young woman" for the courage with which she had lived her short life.

She was diagnosed shortly after birth with cardiomyopathy, a potentially fatal disease of the heart muscle, and spent the first month of her life in Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin.

With treatment, she was able to live a relatively normal life until 2013, when her health began to deteriorate. In April 2014 she underwent the transplant and made a remarkable recovery.

She celebrated her 18th birthday and passed her driving test in August 2014. As a special treat, Elaine and her husband Justin took her to London two months later after getting tickets from Norton for his chat show.

He then insisted on treating them all to dinner.

Helen was so thrilled that she posted a photo of herself with Norton on social media. The caption read: "The best night of my life."

Helen became ill some weeks later and died on December 27.

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