He was a little legend

TRIBUTES have been paid to little Moira boy, Brian Kerr who has passed away after a brave battle with illness.

The ten-year-old, who won a pupil of courage award from the SEELB had suffered from a rare genetic disorder Fanconi’s Anaemia and had battled the rare, inherited blood disorder which led to bone marrow failure for much of his life.

It has been a double tragedy for the Kerr family. His twin sister Helen died when she was just three years of age suffering from a condition HLH. When Brian and Helen were born on February 24, 2002 they were both premature, and spent five weeks in the Ulster Hospital. Brian was admitted into the Belfast Hospital for Sick Children with septic arthritis in his arm.

When Helen was just two years of age she took ill suddenly and had to undergo courses of chemotherapy. At first she was in remission but two weeks later when Helen relapsed her mother Gaye was told that her daughter would need a bone marrow transplant at Bristol Children’s Hospital, if she was to survive.

Their elder brother Adam was an exact match and donated the bone marrow to Helen, a procedure that took place on Adam’s sixth birthday June 24, 2005. At first the procedure seemed to work but then Helen became ill again suffering from acute graft verses where her organs began to shut down. Helen died six months after her diagnosis on August 10, 2005 at the age of three.

Brian’s funeral was held at Maze Presbyterian Church on Tuesday. His school Meadow Bridge Primary closed for the day as a mark of respect.

At the funeral Principal of Meadow Bridge Paul Good described Brian who was nick-named Bright Eyes by nursing staff as a ‘true star.’

“I have never met anyone quite like Brian Kerr, and I don’t think I will ever meet anyone quite like him again,” he said.

“It has been a true privilege and joy to have had Brian with us in Meadow Bridge for just over six years. He has been both an amazing example to all of us in school and a tremendous ambassador for the school when in the public eye.

“And because of his Fanconi Anaemia Brian would often have found himself in the public eye - whether it was playing ice-hockey with the Belfast Giants; acting as a mascot for Man United; appearing with his family on Sky News with Eamonn Holmes; or simply planting a tree in the grounds of Meadow Bridge with the help of Stanton Sloan, the then Chief Executive of the SEELB.

“Brian had been presented with the South Eastern Board’s ‘Pupil of Courage’ award along with Josh Fletcher on this particular occasion, and on every occasion this young man overcame fear, disappointment and despair and showed the ‘world’ that he was never, ever going to give up the fight. It was very clear to everyone in Meadow Bridge that the same inspiration his mum brought to so many, and her caring compassion.”

He continued, “High doses of fairly severe medication changed him as he progressed through school; for example Brian’s voice was hoarser and deeper than other boys of his age; but his friends, and particularly those in his own class, just treated him as another friend, a good mate, one of their own, and got on with things alongside Brian who was often in the centre of it all.

“Indeed, his good friends need to be commended for their outstanding comradeship and, although treating him as normally as possible, always keeping that extra wee eye out for him. In situations like this it is often the adults who worry more. And we, as adults, did in Meadow Bridge. We just wanted to literally wrap him in cotton wool, but Brian was having none of it, being a typical little boy who was always eager to be fully involved in anything that was going on – especially of a sporting nature. We were so fearful that he would have a fall or get a knock or bump, and yet, there he was playing footie, heading balls, racing on sports day, racing every day through the playground and just wanting to be Brian.”

He described himself as having a ‘positive enthusiasm for life’ which he believed was an attitude which helped him at his lowest physically.

“Indeed, we will all miss Brian so, so much,” said Mr Good. “Whether we were a friend of his who enjoyed challenging him on the X-Box; or a teacher who had the privilege of both teaching and learning from.”

“Brian was born with shorter arms than normal and his tiny hands turned in. It was possibly one of the first things people noticed when they met him – and we are all to blame for judging a person’s ability by what we see physically. Indeed, we probably watched in awe as our Paralympians back in August and September achieved amazing things. And Brian Kerr also achieved amazing things.

“I clearly recall the day when Gaye approached me and asked if I thought Brian could cope with guitar lessons in school. I am now embarrassed at my then hesitant response and non-committal reply!

“But Brian did commence guitar lessons with a very patient and understanding tutor, Peter Blake, and went on to achieve his music-medals award and perform at various locations with the group. He was amazing. Outside of school he was a huge fan of Mixed Martial Arts and Tae Kwon Do fully immersing himself in the sport and gaining a number of prestigious awards over the years.

“Adam, you are also a star. Most folk probably don’t have a clue as to how much effort you have put in to raising funds for charities like the Fanconi Hope Charity, the Children’s Cancer Fund and the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Even as we speak, you are planning to absail down the front of the Europa to raise even more money for good causes. You certainly have your mum’s genes as well – not maybe in the ‘abseiling’ department, but in the ‘fundraising’ and ‘caring’ departments!”

He also spoke highly of his mother Gaye.

“Over the past seven or so years Gaye has been someone who has always looked out for others due to her consummate caring nature and selflessness, especially with those who may have been experiencing difficulties or heartache of their own,” he said.

“Fund raising activities, sponsored walks, fun-days in the grounds of her home, raising the profile of something she believed passionately about locally or even nationally. And all this from a lady who didn’t have to look far to discover her own difficulties and heartache. What an inspiration you have been, Gaye, to all of us.”

Minister Rev William Henry said that Brian was a huge inspiration to all. He said that he got to know Brian through the church, he attended the Mum and Toddler group, the Youth club and the minister was member of the Board of Governors.

He said that his death is a huge loss to the community.

“A child who dies is always a huge loss to any community,” he said. “Brian was genuine with someone with a great sense of humour and a sheer inspriation to us all. He tried to put so much into his own life. He will not be forgotten.”

Among the many songs which were pre recorded by the children of the school at the funeral included ‘How Great Thou Art,’ ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’ and ‘You Raise Me Up.’

He is survived by his father Gerry, mother Gaye and brother Adam.