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'My Amy-Lou' by Lucy Brook. 

On the 3rd of February 2000, I received a phone call from a close family friend. She sounded frantic as she spoke, as if she was desperately trying to tell me something but didnt know how. I remember the hundreds of terrible thoughts that rushed through my head in the moments before she managed to say, "Visit Amy in hospital as soon as possible, she isnt doing well."

I was eight years old when I first met Amy Louise Franklin at Morningside Swimming Club in 1993. My first meeting with Amy is so clear and vivid that I can still recall how she made me feel. I remember wandering around the pool deck, past the announcers desk and returning the smile of the friendly looking man seated behind it.

As I gazed over the faces in the grandstand while walking past, a tiny girl a few years older than me smile at me as well. The girl had long ash blonde hair, sparkling green eyes and the most beautiful smile Ive ever seen. From the moment our eyes met I felt drawn towards her, almost as if I knew we would become friends. She was the only child seated in the stands and being the curious eight-year-old that I was, I wanted to know why. I cautiously walked towards her and as I sat down next to her, she smiled again. "Hi," she said softly, "Im Amy". Automatically, I felt so comfortable in her presence, as thought I could tell her all my eight-year-old worries and she would make everything okay. She gestured towards the announcers desk across the pool, "Thats my dad," she said with a grin.

"Whats your name?"

"Im Lucy" I replied.

She giggled and said "You are so cute, I will call you LuLu. You can call me Amy-Lou."

After I swam my first race, I sat with Amy-Lou for the remainder of the evening and became completely fascinated by her. I watched her giggle, laugh and chat with other swimmers as they passed us by. They all seemed to love her. She would cling to me and say, "This is my LuLu", everytime she introduced me to someone. I remember feeling so special and important because I was her LuLu. We chatted about countless eight and ten year old things pets, toys, favourite cartoons, and made plans to live together in a tree house as soon as we were big. As I was walking out the gate to go home, arm in arm with my special friend, I paused, and remembered what I wanted to ask Amy-Lou when I first sat next to her.

"Amy-Lou, why didnt you swim?", I asked. She smiled as if it was something asked of her all the time.

"Im sick" she replied.

To an eight-year-old child, "Im sick" means nothing more than the flu or a virus, but to Amy "Im sick" meant that she had a fatal disease, but it took me a long time to understand this. I waved goodbye to Amy-Lou and climbed into the car.

I raved about Amy-Lou the whole way home, and felt overwhelmed that I found such a special friend. I remember my mother found it hard to get a word in. "Amy has a disease you know, its called Cystic Fibrosis", she said.

"Whats that?" I asked, slightly confused. Amy-Lou didnt look sick, what was this about a disease?

"It does bad things to organs inside you", she tried to explain. "like your liver and intestines".

I nodded, but didnt really grasp the seriousness of the issue. After all, it didnt matter. I was Amy-Lous LuLu.

As I got older I began to understand Amys disease more clearly. I understood at least to a limited degree, that Cystic Fibrosis eventually causes the lungs to collapse and organs such as the liver, kidneys and intestines to malfunction. Amy-Lou and I remained inseparable throughout the years. Sometimes we couldnt go out because Amy had to have an operation or check up, so I would go up to the hospital and we would chat, just like the first time we met.

Until Amy died, hospitals never meant death to me, they just meant that Amy-Lou felt sick, but next week she would be all better and back at swimming and shopping with me on the weekends. Going to the hospital never really worried me because Amy-Lou was always so cheerful and happy to see me, and being so young, I couldnt comprehend that somebody so ill could be cheerful and happy. As far as I was aware, sick people were old and miserable. Looking back now that I am older, I understand that Amy was always so happy and cheerful because she was such a positive person. She refused to sit back and let her disease take her over, so she fought. She set goals and she never stopped believing in herself. To me, Amy-Lous determination and her positive nature were inspirational, and although I didnt completely understand the seriousness of Amys condition, I did know that she was an amazingly strong person. This was, and still is, something that makes me impatient with myself when I whinge about a bad day. I simply cant do it without remembering Amy.

One Friday evening in 1998, I arrived at swimming to find several of my friends in tears. I became frightened and asked them what was wrong. "Its Amy" they sobbed. I remember the sick feeling in my stomach and my whole body going tense. I was filled with fear and panic, I remember asking a number of questions in quick succession, which only made everyone cry more even more. Someone said, "Shes dying". I was so confused. By now I did understand Amy-Lous disease completely but I didnt understand how she could be dying. All the nurses and doctors always told me that Amy would live a happy normal life until she was in her twenties. I remember feeling so incredibly helpless. Everything seemed to be going at a million miles an hour and all I could concentrate on were those two words. "Shes dying". I played them over in my mind. "Shes dying, shes dying, shes dying, shes dying." I felt so shocked and confused. I wanted to believe that my friends were confused and that Mr. Franklin would tell me everything was okay, so I went over to the announcers stand. He looked surprised, but threw his arms around me and asked me what was wrong. "Is Amy-Lou going to due?" I whispered. His expression turned slightly solemn but I could see that he understood. He cleared his throat and spoke to me gently, still holding me in his arms. "One day LuLu." He said. "Perhaps sooner than the nurses said". He explained to me that Amy-Lous disease had intensified but she was okay at the moment. Still shocked, I nodded and went home early.

By December 1999, Amy-Lou was seventeen and in hospital all the time. She spent Christmas day at home with her family, but returned to the Prince Charles hospital the very next day where she stayed. I visited as often as possible but Amy-Lou wasnt allowed visitors for very long anymore.

The 6th of February was the last time I ever saw my Amy-Lou. I remember feeling so heart broken, so shattered and sad and then a little bit angry because it was so unfair. I sat next to the bed and fed Joe, Amy-Lous beloved goldfish, and held her hand. She squeezed me tightly and smiled at me through her oxygen mask. "Im going to be an angel LuLu." Her words cause tears to stream down my face, how could someone so special be dying?

"Aww, dont cry LuLu," she said.

"I love you and we will always be together in your dreams."

I kissed her on the cheek, "I love you too."

Two days later, my Amy-Lou died.

The impact that Amy had on the people around her in her short life was astounding. She was loved and cherished by so many people and she gave so much love in return. Through the good times and bad, she remained positive, strong and inspirational. She was a fighter and made the best that she could out of her short time here, and I believe that I am a better person for knowing her.

Amy-Lou has inspired me to be kind and positive in everything that I do, and to accept things that I cannot change, just as she did. By following her examples, she taught me to help others to set goals and to love others. Despite her illness, I never once heard Amy complain, she continually found the good in everything and this is a quality I aspire to. Amy knew that a fatal disease would one day take her life, and by remaining so positive and making the most of a situation.

Looking back now makes me realise that helping children with Cystic Fibrosis is something that I hope to be able to achieve by helping to raise money and spending time with children who suffer from C.S. As much as I miss Amy-Lou, I am grateful for the time I did have with this wonderful person and for all the things she has taught me.

After all, I was her LuLu.