Rheagan Hendry named Inspirational Woman of the Year

PUBLISHED: 16:59 12 March 2012 | UPDATED: 21:09 20 February 2013

Rheagan Hendry talks about how the passing of her mother inspired her to help others

Rheagan Hendry talks about how the passing of her mother inspired her to help others

Rheagan Hendry was named Inspirational Woman of the Year for the work she's been doing in her mother's memory. Amanda Griffiths met her Photography by Kirsty Thompson

It was a bitter-sweet moment as Rheagan Hendry stood on stage to collect the Inspirational Woman of the Year award. The one person who really mattered wasnt there to share her success.

Rheagan, daughter of former Premier League footballer and ex-Blackpool FC manager Colin Hendry, was accepting the accolade for the charity she had set up.

The one-time model and singer turned business woman from Lytham St Annes, set up the Denise Hendry Foundation in memory of her mother, who died at the age of 43 after ten years of ill-health following a liposuction operation that went horribly wrong.

I hope she would be proud of me, says Rheagan. I wouldnt have got here without her. People often think Ive relied on my dads contacts to get here, but Ive done this all by myself.

Yes, it has been with incredible support from my family, but I have found a strength since we lost mum, a strength I never knew I had and thats what got me through the last two and a half years.

The charity aims to support and advise people who have been affected by cases of medical negligence.

Id spoken to mum about doing something like this, says Rheagan, aged 22. It was something she wanted to pursue after she got better she didnt want to see anyone else suffer the way she had.

The story of Denises shattering ilnness made headlines across the country. Everyone had an opinion, says Rheagan. There were people out there saying mum deserved it they believed she was a typical footballers wife.

But she lived for her family, for dad and the kids. She was the homely type, she loved being a wife and mother, that was all she lived for. To have that taken away so tragically was awful. She got better but the next seven years with us werent the same.

It took a long rehabilitation period to get through that initial operation. She didnt eat for two years, she was fed through IV lines constantly. We were looking after her at home and as time progressed she needed further operations on her stomach and digestive system to put right the damage.

I think the hardest thing for us as a family in the last few months was not being able to say the things we wanted because she was drifting in and out of consciousness.

It was on her sisters 12th birthday when they got the phone call to say they should prepare for the worst and bring people in to say their goodbyes.

I remember thinking not today. It was a ten year battle for us as a family and, after the inquest, I thought now is the time to start turning things around - the foundation is about turning what happened into a positive.

Im certainly not in the position to say that a person has definitely suffered medical negligence, I can only really tell them what happened to us. In mums case it was from cosmetic surgery, but when I began to research it I realised there was much more to it than that, with medical negligence through surgery more widespread.

With any operation theres a risk, but I feel like for us, as a family, that risk was never really explained.

Rheagan says she has no vendetta against the health care system. Ive come across some amazing people in that area, especially when I had my daughter in hospital.

Its not about telling them theyre doing a bad job theyre not. I want the risks explained better to people, not just to protect the patient but the surgeon too.

We want to build a bridge between the health care system and the public. I dont want to see another family suffer the way mine did. Its a really hard situation, I literally became a mother to my brother and sister from the age of 12, helping my dad cook tea and look after them it was never a problem for me but meant I had to grow up so much more quickly.

I have such passion for what Im doing, I really believe I can make a difference and think that my passion and determination is what helped me win the award. It is appreciated on a personal level but itd great for the foundation as well as it gives it so much more credibility.

Were fundraising and creating sponsorship links but trying to find creative ways to do that. Wed like to be a link between the hospitals and the public, I certainly dont want to step on anyones toes but were there for people to speak too if they want too.

At the end of the day Im never going to say to someone dont have cosmetic surgery, but what I would say is to make sure you know the risks and find someone you trust and feel comfortable with. Its such a quick fix now that people are going abroad and having it done in hotel rooms, its so scary when you delve into it.

For more information about the charity see www.denisehendryfoundation.com

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