Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Spirit of Northern Ireland: Amazing Newry girl Cara is a real lifesaver

Cara McCartan
Cara McCartan

By Stephanie Bell

Pop star Niall Horan was just one of many celebrities charmed by little Cara McCartan after she was honoured at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers last June.

The One Direction singer made a date to see little Cara, and, true to his word, gave her a memorable day out at the Northern Ireland Open golf tournament.

Cara, who turned nine last month, picked up our Spirit of Youth Award sponsored by Harvey Norman in recognition of her brave act in saving her mum’s life.

Little Cara from Newry is a rock to both her parents, Sandra (36) and Hugh (42), who are deaf and unable to speak.

Ever since she was able to talk herself, Cara learned sign language and interprets for both her parents.

Mum Sandra is also very ill with cerebral palsy and is currently on the waiting list for a lung transplant and Cara, who is a pupil of St Joseph’s Primary School in Newry, helps her out in every way she can.

The entire family circle was determined that our awards would be a special night for Cara, who was treated to a shopping trip to choose a dress for the occasion, and had her make-up applied in the spa at the Culloden Hotel.

She enjoyed every minute of her big night, meeting the many celebrities and getting them to sign a special autograph book bought specially for the event by her granddad, Bill, who was there with her grandmother, Angela, parents, aunts and uncles to celebrate Cara’s big moment.

Niall Horan (24) invited Cara to the Northern Ireland Open and her grandfather says it was another fantastic day for their little star.

Bill says: “She met Niall at the Galgorm hotel and had her mummy and daddy and her aunt and little cousin Eva with her.

“They were treated like VIPs. Cara was over the moon and had a brilliant day. Niall was lovely and was happy to meet both girls, even though little Eva wasn’t supposed to be there.

“Cara is a really big fan now and for her birthday in January we surprised her with tickets to see Niall in concert in Belfast this year and she can’t wait.

“It will be her first concert. Before she met him she would have asked me to turn the radio off in the car because she is used to a quiet house. Now she makes me turn it on and if one of Niall’s songs comes on she sings every word.

“She is an amazing wee girl and we are so proud of her.”

It was December 3, 2016, when Cara went into her mum’s bedroom and discovered she had turned blue and was struggling to breathe.

Without hesitation she contacted the emergency services who arrived within minutes and rushed Sandra to Daisy Hill Hospital.

The situation was so critical that doctors later told the family that Cara’s quick-thinking had saved Sandra’s life that night.

Bill recalls: “If it had been half an hour later we were told that Sandra wouldn’t have made it.

“Sandra is waiting for a lung transplant and at night wears what we call a ‘nippy’, which is a machine that looks like a fireman’s mask which feeds moisture as well as oxygen into her lungs.

“Cara went in to see her mummy and found that she had turned blue because she wasn’t getting enough oxygen.

“There is an emergency helpline in the house and she rang it immediately and told the lady that her mummy needed help and then asked her to ring me and her grandmother.

“My wife Angela is a nurse and she had just got off night duty. We live nearby and as we left the house we could hear the ambulance.

“Sandra was taken to Daisy Hill Hospital where they saved her life. When she was stabilised she was then transferred to the City Hospital Cystic Fibrosis unit.

“If Daisy Hill Hospital A&E hadn’t been there and she had to be taken to Craigavon she would not have made it, and we were told that as a fact. Cara and the A&E staff at Daisy Hill saved her life.

“Cara was a star that night. She always has been. She has signed for her parents since she could talk and would shout at me that I need to learn to sign too.

“Sandra is thankfully doing well. She had to go to England before Christmas for a review and they were really happy with her so we just hope this will be the year she gets her transplant.”

Cara loves Irish dancing and swimming and throughout January showed her star quality again when she took part in her local panto, Beauty and the Beast, in Newry Town Hall.

Her granddad adds: “Cara is so busy you have to book an appointment to see her!

“She is really chuffed with her award and when I got my new phone she put a picture of it on it as the screensaver. It has pride of place on the mantelpiece.

“She had a brilliant night and one she will never, ever forget.

“Everything about the night was fabulous. Every celebrity in the room came down to the table to meet Cara.”

You can nominate an unsung hero like Cara for this year’s awards using the form here, or by emailing


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