Rangers legend Graeme Souness to take on English Channel to raise £1.1m for 14-year-old living with EB

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Souness will take on the English Channel this summer - here’s how to support the campaign

Rangers legend, former footballer turned manager turned pundit, Graeme Souness, will take on the English Channel this summer to raise £1 million to combat a rare medical condition.

Souness will swim the Channel in June as he hopes to raise £1.1m to fund drug testing to ease the pain caused by the condition epidermolysis bullosa (EB).

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EB is in an incredibly painful skin blistering condition which is known as ‘butterfly skin’ - as it makes the patients skin as ‘fragile as a butterfly wing.’

Graeme has a deeply personal connection to the condition – 14-year-old Isla Grist, from the Scottish Highlands, who is living with ‘recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa.’

Her pain made a huge impression on Graeme and inspired him to take on this mammoth challenge.

Graeme said: “From the time I have spent with Isla and her family, I have seen first-hand the extreme pain this devastating condition causes and the daily challenges it creates for them.

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“I wanted to do something that could make a difference to Isla’s life and to the lives of so many others living with EB and the slightly crazy idea of swimming the English Channel was suggested.

“Now I’m not one to walk away from a challenge but this is all new to me; despite living by the sea for the past 16 years, I’ve never been in it, and Isla is the only reason I did.

“Alongside Isla’s dad, Andy, and the rest of the team, I am determined to complete the Channel crossing, to raise awareness of EB, and to raise the funds that DEBRA so desperately needs.

“Please support me, every pound raised gets us one step closer to a world where no one suffers with the pain of EB”.

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Graeme Souness with Isla, who lives with EB or ‘butterfly skin’Graeme Souness with Isla, who lives with EB or ‘butterfly skin’
Graeme Souness with Isla, who lives with EB or ‘butterfly skin’

Graeme, who recently celebrated his 70th birthday, will take to the water on Sunday June 18 in a swim which could take up to 16 hours.

Graeme, who wore the no.11 for the majority of his days on the pitch, aims to raise £1.1m to enable DEBRA, the butterfly skin charity, to clinically test drugs already

available within the NHS that could radically improve quality of life for people living with EB.

14-year-old Isla said: “My Dad was not the best swimmer before he agreed to swim the English Channel with Graeme for DEBRA.

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“Dad’s been training hard in the sea and pool, including through a tough Scottish winter, and I’m so proud of him and Graeme for pushing themselves like this to try and help raise awareness of EB.

“EB is brutal, trust me, and we need as many people as possible to join the fight to stop the pain of EB.”

Joining Graeme on the swim is Isla’s dad, Andy – despite not really being able to swim very well prior to beginning training.

Now, with rough seas ahead, Andy is facing his fears, inspired by his brave daughter’s daily battles.

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Graeme Souness with Isla’s dad, AndyGraeme Souness with Isla’s dad, Andy
Graeme Souness with Isla’s dad, Andy

Speaking about the challenge, Andy said:“I know that Isla wants what we all want: a life free of pain. A life free of the fear that EB will continue to devastate her increasingly fragile body.

“She has told me this and it was hard to hear but impossible to ignore and to we must continue to FightEB.

“Isla hopes for success in her much longer, harder, more painful journey with EB, a journey she never had a choice about and also cannot complete alone.

“Please, please, be part of her journey with us. The money raised from our Swim21 will go towards giving Isla, and the 5,000 people like her in the UK, a life free of pain. From repurposing existing drugs to improve her quality of life to funding new treatments, we know together, we can make a life free of pain possible.”

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As he prepares to embark on this huge challenge alongside his friend Andy, fighting to raise awareness and money to help Isla and others like her in the UK, Graeme is ready to push through the pain.

Grame concluded: “I had been totally unaware of the level of training, commitment and emotional reserves it would take to get me ‘match fit’ for this challenge. But, like the rest of my team, I stuck with it and my confidence increased with each swim.

“There have been some difficult moments, I won’t lie, in freezing winter waters. But with a great coach, who has pushed me to do better with each swim, my DEBRA team my trusty wetsuit, I am now actually enjoying the dawn training sessions in the sea.

“I am not complacent but I now feel I’m where I need to be to meet this challenge. I know swimming the English Channel will be a mighty challenge but it is nothing compared to what Isla and people like her, face every single day.”

To sponsor Graeme and the team’s English Channel swim please visit www.give.as/DEBRAswim

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