'No-one expected this' - Popular teen Kirsty Clarke dies seven years after heart transplant
Tributes have been paid to a Co Fermanagh teenager who has lost her battle for life almost seven years after receiving a heart transplant.
Kirsty Clarke (18), who died suddenly on Monday morning, had undergone the transplant procedure in March 2010 after a virus diminished her own heart's function by almost 75pc.
A local councillor and family friend, Victor Warrington, told the Belfast Telegraph last night that the family had been left devastated.
"Speaking not just as a councillor, but as someone who knows the family quite well, I would like to say that my thoughts and prayers are with them at this very difficult time," he said.
"Everyone I have spoken to is in absolute shock.
"We are a small close-knit rural community.
"Everybody knows everybody and, because Kirsty had the transplant at such a young age, everyone knew who she was.
"We knew she has faced hurdles and had been unwell recently, but no-one was expecting this."
The former Lisnakea High School pupil complained of feeling unwell at around 7.30am on Monday.
After going back to bed, Kirsty's health quickly deteriorated and she died within hours.
The family have endured much heartache over the years following the murder of Kirsty's grandfather Jimmy Graham and his two brothers in the 1980s.
The UDR men were murdered in three separate incidents over four years.
Jimmy was targeted on February 1, 1985 by the Provisional IRA, four years after his two brothers were killed by the same terror group.
Kirsty's mother later became a member of a victim and survivors support group, the South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF).
SEFF Director Kenny Donaldson also paid tribute to young Kirsty, saying she was held in high regard.
"There has just been an absolute avalanche of emails and calls, she was extremely well respected," he said.
"A lot of people admired her courage and confidence. Despite her struggles, she lived a full life and served others.
"Volunteering was important to her.
"Even last week she was in here wanting to volunteer at our upcoming conference."
Kirsty became an active member of the support group and represented SEFF at Project Common Bond (PCB) meetings in the USA on two occasions.
The PCB was established after the 9/11 terror attacks in the US.
It brings together young people who have been affected by conflict from 20 different countries.
"She was always aware of her roots and wanted to honour the memory of her grandfather and his brothers, but she wanted to help build a better future," said Mr Donaldson.