After 20 years of living life as an inspirational “cystic fibrosis warrior” Penrith’s Keir-Jake ‘KJ’ Thompson has died.
Throughout KJ’s life he fought the disease with a smile on his face and his strength and ability to take everything in his stride inspired all who met him.
His mother, Paula Thompson, said messages the family have received following KJ’s death have been “mind-blowing” with people saying how much he helped them during their time of need — testament to the compassionate and caring person he was.
Born on January 4, 2001, KJ is survived by sisters Amy-Ann, Deza and niece Arabella, along with his grandfather John who for years ran Thompson’s Garage in Penrith.
Weeks after KJ was born, the first murmur of foot and mouth outbreak hit Britain, and pyres were lit, blowing smoke throughout Eden.
As his family lived at Stainton, the smoke was blamed for his breathing difficulties.
However, seven months later, he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the Cumberland Infirmary children’s ward.
Much of KJ’s childhood was spent in hospital, going to the children’s ward every three months for up to three weeks for antibiotics.
But his endless energy lifted other children’s spirits in the ward and he formed strong bonds with his “hospital family”.
In 2011, he was nominated for the Pride of Cumbria Child of Courage Award and aged 10 the Stainton Primary School pupil received his award.
In 2013 KJ was diagnosed with lung failure and given two years to live. He defied this by surviving an extra year and then received the gift of a double lung transplant in May, 2016.
His bucket list wish of a helicopter ride came true as an air ambulance took him to the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle, for his operation.
In true KJ style, he bounced back from the transplant and only a week after the isolation stage was over, he returned to Ullswater Community College with his friends.
Many opportunities came to KJ during his life, the Starlight Charity arranged a race track experience where he went in a Lamborghini and an Aerial Atom around the track.
He was joined by Nigel Percival who would take KJ with him when he drove the NBM bus in Penrith when KJ’s grandmother Valda was an escort for the school and Edington Centre.
As a child, KJ was able to visit a private zoo and was invited to watch Newcastle United where he was named man of the match.
He modelled for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, featured in the Cystic Fibrosis Trust magazine and starred in a documentary Kids With Cameras — Diary of a Children’s Ward.
With Transplant Kids he went skiing in Switzerland.
Despite his condition, KJ was an active person throughout his life and enjoyed bike rides and walks with many of his friends.
After school he worked variously at North Lakes Dairy, Euro Garages on Bridge Lane and RM Pumps in Penrith.
In recent weeks KJ was rushed to hospital where he was diagnosed with an infected heart valve. He underwent lifesaving surgery and managed to return home to Fairhill Road but died on May 10.
Following his death, an online GoFundMe page was set up by family friend Ruth Martin to raise money towards the funeral, which received more than £3,300 in donations.
A separate collection in memory of KJ will be donated to 500 Acts of Kindness, a charity co-founded by actress Julie Hesmondalgh — known for playing Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street.
Donations can be made via Richardson Funeral Directors, Penrith, who had care of arrangements.