Football legend Graeme Souness struggled to hold back the tears as he vowed to swim the English Channel to raise money for a charity battling a ‘cruel and nasty’ disease.
Souness is aiming to raise £1.1m for the Debra charity, which supports around 5,000 people in the UK who currently live with the incurable condition Dystrophic Recessive Epidermolysis Bullosa.
Epidermolysis Bullosa, otherwise known as ‘butterfly skin’, is a degenerative condition that attacks children’s organs and causes the skin to tear or blister at the slightest touch.
Souness, regarded as one of the best midfielders of his generation and a respected TV pundit, was inspired after meeting 14-year-old Isla Grist.
Isla – who lives in the Black Isle, near Inverness – has had her condition since birth and has to be wrapped head to toe in bandages, which are changed three times a week.
An emotional Souness, who will do the 21-mile swim from England to France alongside Isla’s father Andy, told BBC Breakfast: ‘It’s the most horrendous disease.
‘If you are affected by it you must wake up every morning and think, why me? It’s a desperate situation. And then the parents have to deal with that. And that’s why we’re doing this.
Former Liverpool footballer Graeme Souness is swapping being a TV pundit to swim the English Channel.
The 70 year old told #BBCBreakfast he’s doing it for the charity DEBRA which supports people living with Epidemolysis Bullosa pic.twitter.com/nXoL0aazZA
‘Isla is the most unique human being I’ve ever met. She’s an inspiration to me, she’s just unbelievably courageous, brave and strong.
‘This is a very special young lady battling the cruellest, nastiest disease that I know of. We need to get on top of this condition because it is brutal.’
Souness has already raised almost £100,000 and the money will go towards Debra’s ‘A Life Free of Pain’ appeal, which hopes to help pay to clinically test drug treatments that could improve the quality of life for people with butterfly skin.
Isla also appeared on BBC Breakfast alongside her father and was asked how painful, on a scale of 1-10, it is to get her bandages changed. ‘I would say 11,’ she replied.
Click here to find out more about Graeme Souness’ charity swim and Debra’s ‘A Life Free of Pain’ appeal.
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