WHEN 14-year-old Shannon Donovan collapsed at a cheerleading event two years ago, it soon became clear she was one of very few teenagers who develop heart disease at such a young age.
Inevitably she had to give up her performances, and because the condition is much rarer in youngsters she was left feeling incredibly lonely.
However, refusing to be defeated, Shannon, who lives in Waddon, threw herself into working for the British Heart Foundation (BHF). She became one of their youngest reporters, creating videos and writing blog articles that encourage teenagers to share their experiences of the disease.
And last week Shannon, now 16, was presented with the BHF's Heart Hero award at the organisation's annual general meeting in London.
Shannon was diagnosed with a heart condition called CPVT, which means she has an irregular heart rhythm that can lead her to collapse or go into cardiac arrest.
She said: "After being diagnosed, I had to give up cheerleading and felt really alone. But getting involved with the BHF has allowed me to make new friends who also live with heart conditions.
"As a BHF young reporter I want to make sure that other young people and heart patients know about the support that's available – this isn't something people have to deal with alone.
"It's really nice to be recognised with the award and I'm determined to keep spreading the work of the BHF so that more people can get the same support I have."
Shannon was also recognised for her leading role at the BHF's Teen Think Tank event, which the charity uses to consult young people on the heart health issues that are important to them.
This year, participants called on the BHF to continue to campaign on issues including a ban on tobacco advertising, putting defibrillators in public places, and running emergency lifesaving training in schools.
Among those Shannon has helped is a girl named Lucy, who was born with a complex heart disease and required a transplant when she was six.
Her mother, Bev Pearson, said: "Through the BHF's events, Shannon has really brought my daughter out of her shell.
"Shannon has made her feel worthwhile as it's been quite a lonely journey for her."
Jenna Hall, head of children and young people at the BHF, said: "Shannon has made an incredible contribution. The videos and content she has created as well as her involvement at our events have encouraged other young people battling heart conditions to try new things, make new friends and start to talk about their condition."