Dubai With cries of “C’mon! Aunt Kate, You can make it!!”, six-year-old Harrison cheered Kate Willoughby as she neared the finish line during a 25-km swim mission around ‘The World’ in Dubai on Wednesday evening.
The 32-year-old British expat woman had undertaken the feat in the backwaters of The World islands to raise awareness of the condition that afflicts millions of children like her nephew Harrison who has been diagnosed with a fatal muscle disorder called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. It also aimed to raise money for a Harrison fund formed by the boy’s family to help affected kids.
As Willoughby touched the sandy beaches of California Island at 5.30pm after her arduous 11-hour swim, she leapt into the arms of her mother Nikkie Morris, 64, both bursting into joyful tears. That very moment, Harrison and his brother William placed two medals as mementos around her neck.
“It got worse every minute with wind speeds touching 12 to 19 knots and jellyfish stinging me. Every kilometre was the longest kilometre of my life. But I was sure not to give up,” an emotionally charged Willoughby said. The black Puma swimsuit she wore was barely able to cover bruises from jellyfish stings.
The 25-km swim that started at 6.30am began from the California Island, going counter-clockwise and taking a complete circle around the breakwaters.
Willoughby would briefly stop at every kilometer marked with a red buoy and have a sip of water or juice without touching the boat. Represenatives from Nakheel and Towers Rotana which organised the event accompanied Willoughby throughout her swim with two kayaks and a boat with a medical and rescue team onboard. Katy’s friends aboard the boat kept egging her on by writing inspiring messages from her Facebook page on a white board and waving it for her to see.
“We are so proud of her. She has inspired us all to do more to raise awareness about Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy that many people are not even aware of,” said Alex, Harrison’s father.
Harrison was diagnosed with the condition when he was four. “Now he is a seemingly happy and healthy child. But by the age of 12, he will be bound to a wheelchair. And as in almost all cases of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, the life expectancy does not exceed 20,” Kate told XPRESS
Harrison’s family and friends were flown from the UK and Australia by Towers Rotana, and Harrison is having the holiday of his lifetime in Dubai.