4-year-old ‘PHighter’ Earns Courage Award in Scotland

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by Mary Chapman |

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When Zac Gunn was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension (PH) three years ago, he was in very poor shape. But he rallied, astounding his medical team with his resilience and zest for life.

And recently, the 4-year-old, who is awaiting a lung transplant, went on stage to receive the Child of Courage award at the Daily Record Pride of Scotland Awards.

The awards, dubbed the “People’s Oscars,” celebrate ordinary Scots who are transforming the lives of those around them — from selfless acts of bravery and humbling acts of kindness, to raising millions for charity. Winners are nominated by the public.

At the June ceremony, which took place in Edinburgh, young Gunn received the courage award flanked by his parents and older brother, Jacob. Earlier, he and his family walked the star-studded red carpet.

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“The evening was absolutely magical,” Gunn’s mother, Ashley, said in a press release from the U.K.’s Pulmonary Hypertension Association.

“It was beautiful, and although Zac and his brother Jacob are superstars in our eyes, other people got to see how amazing they are too. I felt like the award was for both of them, as Jacob deals with a lot too, and smashes it,” Ashley added.

PH is a progressive disorder associated with the narrowing of the blood vessels that supply the lungs, increasing blood pressure and making the right ventricle of the heart work harder to pump blood.

Zac’s blood vessels are particularly narrow, and at his first visit, “doctors said it was the worst case of pulmonary hypertension they had ever seen,” Ashley said in a Pride of Scotland Awards‘ page dedicated to this year’s Child of Courage winner.

Still, the boy’s verve and buoyancy was apparent early on.

“They could not believe the child who was trying to climb out of his crib was the same child whose results were in front of them,” Ashley said.

“Zac seems to have a special effect on everyone he meets and he deserves to keep on living. He’s a wee warrior,” his mother added.

Soccer players befriend Zac

Nicknamed “PHighter Zac,” the youngster, who lives in Motherwell, Scotland,  also impressed celebrities including former English soccer star David Beckham, who visited the boy in the hospital. And he also is now friends with Scottish soccer player Andy Robertson.

Zac carries a pump on his back that administers the medication he needs directly into the bloodstream, 24 hours a day. He has been on a waiting list for a lung transplant for a year. Donor candidates must be younger than 9, making it even more challenging to find a suitable match.

“As amazing as it was to see Zac win this award, it would be a million times better to get the phone call to say there are lungs available,” Ashley said. “I just need people to know how rare it is to get a new set of lungs and how much we need them.”

While awaiting word of a possible donor, Zac and his family are doing their best to enjoy summer. But, just in case, a hospital bag is packed and ready.

”Zac rocks our world,” Ashley added. “As adults, we couldn’t go through what he does. He is so resilient and really is a force to be reckoned with.”