They say that childhood is the best time of your life, but for 11-year old Hannah Clark they have been a test of spirit and determination.
In the last ten years, the Mountain Ash Comprehensive pupil from Miskin has had a heart transplant, suffered kidney failure and battled a complex blood disorder.
She has come close to death a number of times and attributes her ability to endure her illnesses to her great love of pop music.
Earlier this year, pop star Darius Danesh performed a private concert by her Great Ormond Street Hospital bedside in London, where she was receiving chemotherapy for Lymph Proliferative Disease (LPD), an illness that affects her glands, blood and immune system.
For Hannah and her family it was a dream come true. 'She was absolutely ecstatic,' said mum Elizabeth, 40. 'She has been through so much and to have her hero sing beside her was just incredible.
'He sat with her for over an hour, chatting to her and singing songs. It put a great big grin on her face and has given her so much hope.
'He has asked her to stay in touch and she's hoping to go and see him in concert soon. It's given her something to keep fighting for.'
At just 10 months old, Hannah was diagnosed with Cardiomyopathy , a disease in which the heart becomes abnormally enlarged. She underwent a successful heart transplant when she was two years old, but was diagnosed with LPD just five years later.
Since then, Hannah and her family have had to make frequent journeys to London for treatment.
Dad Paul Clark, a former factory worker, said: 'She is such a fighter and believes she has everything to live for.
'Her dream is to visit America to swim with dolphins in Florida and we're going to do all we can to make sure she gets there.
'I'm so proud of her and thank God we have such a brave little girl.' COURAGEOUS BATTLE AGAINST THE ODDS: In 1993 Hanna, aged 10 months, is diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and a year later, she undergoes a successful heart transplant at Harefield Hospital in Middlesex.
In 1998, aged five, she is told her kidneys have been scarred by tablets she has been taking for her heart condition and she is rushed to University Hospital of Wales to be monitored.
In 2000, aged seven, she is diagnosed with lymph proliferative disease and taken to Harefield Hospital for treatment. While there she slips into a coma but pulls through three days later.
Later that year, she suffers a relapse of her LPD and is taken to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London for dialysis. While there, she suffers a series of brain seizures as a result of the intensive treatment and her family are told she has only 12 hours to live. She is placed on a ventilator and pulls through, but is quickly placed on a new course of chemotherapy.
Three weeks later Hannah is allowed home but returns to London every few days to be monitored.
In 2001 the LPD returned. She is having treatment at St Ormond Street and the Children's Hospital in Cardiff.
Darius and his equally good-looking young brother Aria have been flying more than the flag for Scotland. They’ve caused a bit of a stir in the Big Apple with their specially designed kilts. The two “cheeky” chappies were taking part in the Dressed To Kilt show and let’s just say the audience saw a bit more than they expected. With such delightful ambassadors, I think we’ll be inundated with loved-up Yankee girls eager to snare themselves a Scottish boy. It’s just a pity the vast majority of our lovely men are more Shell Suit Bob than Sharp Suit Darius.
That would usually rule out everyone up to and including a Village People tribute band. But this week the Copacabana Club in New York relaxed its requirements and allowed some more exotic creations in to enjoy its tropical-themed décor as part of Tartan Week.
The Dressed To Kilt fashion show, which last year saw the simultaneous beginning and end of Jack McConnell’s modelling career, has brought the work of another string of Scottish designers to the attention of the bulging wallets of New York’s glitterati.
It has also broken the hearts of women who should know better by confirming Darius Danesh is closer than ever to stunning Species star Natasha Henstridge, whom he met at the Mondrian hotel on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles a year ago.
He invited her along to the Scottish showcase event, where he was modelling kilts and jumpers for US internet store Thistle and Broom with his younger brother, Aria, 21. She must be smitten, appearing on the catwalk with a revealing kilt and button-top outfit by young Edinburgh designer Joey D. "She didn’t just look fabulous, she was stunning," said Dressed To Kilt organiser Geoff Scott Carroll.
He must be pleased there were no obvious repeats of the First Minister’s faux pas, although Micheline Connery - husband, Sir Sean, was absent - raised more than one eyebrow (I doubt she can raise her own) by wearing a sporran with black trousers, a bleach-white mini-jacket and tartan tie. Perhaps one of the city’s notorious power cuts had caused panic in the dressing room? Luckily she was rescued by catwalk dancing partner, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen star Tony Curran, whose own sporran appeared to contain a packet of 20 Malboro Lights. What would health minister Andy Kerr say?
One of the few participants to emerge with dignity fully intact was blue-eyed Hollywood actor Gerard Butler, the 35-year-old Glaswegian star of Lara Croft and Phantom of the Opera who brandished a claymore in a Belinda Robertson pink cashmere jumper and leathery kilt.
Actor Kyle MacLachlan joined the fun, and Sex and the City creator Candace Bushnell sported outfits by students at Heriot-Watt University while making an entrance with husband Charles Askegard - a dancer with the New York Ballet. Tip-toed balletic grace was less in evidence when Scotland Today newsreader Sarah Heaney crashed onto the catwalk in a tartan top and black miniskirt, given an emergency helping hand by indefatigable Glasgow socialite Kelly Cooper Barr who had herself come dressed as if ready to participate in a Historic Scotland battle re-enactment.
CNN mogul Ted Turner appeared in a pair of wellies - a precaution understandable to anyone who has been into the gents at a club after midnight - and matching jacket and cap supplied by Scottish outdoor clothing firm Hunter, which is expanding into the US market for the first time. Turner’s girlfriend, Rebekah Stewart (who arrived in an elegant evening ballgown by Lochcarron affiliate designer Michael Kay) is of Scottish descent and runs a holiday ranch called Brigadoon Lodge, described as "Georgia’s premier fly-fishing retreat" - final proof that the Americans who attend Tartan Week are considerably more eccentric (and probably more interesting) than their Scottish visitors.
Former footballer Mo Johnstone and Scotland rugby legend Scott Hastings represented the Tartan Army, the latter showing off Lochcarron’s official tartan for this summer’s British Lions tour of New Zealand.
Young violinist Laura McGhee from Angus fiddled her way down the catwalk while Edinburgh-born KT Tunstall - also kilted - later provided music as the audience enjoyed Johnnie Walker (and Irn Bru to take the taste away).
Is this non-stop kilt parade really the best showcase for Scottish culture abroad?
"This is where the young people, the New York society figures are," insists Carroll, a wealthy investor whose Upper East Side apartment became an unofficial celebrity fitting room in the run-up to the event. "They don’t go to bagpipe parades but they know that Dressed To Kilt is a hot ticket because it represents a youthful and confident Scotland. The designers that are involved in the show are at the forefront of Scottish business in the United States and beyond, so the value of events like this is incredible.
"Take Joey D. It’s his first time at Dressed to Kilt and he gets Natasha Henstridge modelling his outfits. He’s a designer from Edinburgh. You can’t say that what is being represented here is somehow not relevant to what is happening in Scotland."
He claims the event gave Tartan Week a more contemporary feel. "You can stick with all the haggis and heather if you want but there is a market beyond that which understands that Scotland is not just about what has been preserved but also what is new and innovative.
"Scotland has a strong reputation here in the US as a country that exports its brains. Here is proof that it can produce beauty as well."
But Sarah almost came a cropper as she took to the stage with Kelly Cooper-Barr. The STV newsgirl stumbled and was only saved from a nasty fall by the quick reactions of the Glasgow stylist who grabbed her as she tumbled.
The celebrities joined former Old Firm star Mo Johnston, rugby legend Gavin Hastings and Phantom of the Opera star Gerard Butler at a fashion show to celebrate Tartan Day.
The annual Dressed to Kilt show was themed Glasgow Meets Havana ... at the Copacabana.
Sarah wore a stunning satin and diamante dress, top right, with a tartan shawl created by Glasgow-based designer Spencer Railton.
Fashions from Yvette Jelfs and Pringle of Scotland graced the catwalk this year.
Darius and his brother Aria were modelling for US internet firn Thistle and Broom, who sell luxury Scots clothing and jewellery on-line.
Promoters hope the show will spark a surge of interest across America in new Scottish designs.
Darius and brother take kilts from sidewalk to the catwalk
POP star Darius and his brother Aria stopped traffic in Times Square yesterday as they modelled kilts.
The pair were practising before taking to the catwalk last night in a Tartan Week fashion show.
The brother were set to strut their stuff in front of celebrities including Sean Connery at the Dressed to Kilt show. And Darius, 24, will now head off to Los Angeles to write new songs with top producers The Matrix, who worked on his last album Live Twice.
Last night, the Pop Idol star said: 'As a singer, I'm very much involved in the creative process.
'When you are hit by inspiration, you've got to make use of it no matter where in the world you are. I'll be there for a few weeks and I'm looking forward to it.'
He and Aria, 21, who is working as a charity fundraiser before returning to his studies later this year, have been taking in the shows since arriving in New York at the weekend.
Yesterday, the 6ft 4in brothers cut a dash as they marched out of Broadway's super-trendy Dream hotel, where they are staying, and crossed Times Square wearing hand-made kilts and Shetland jumpers.
Darius and Aria were modelling for US internet store Thistle and Broom, who sell luxury hand-made Scots products including clothing, jewellery and glass.
Managing director Teresa Fritschi said: 'They look beautiful. They have fulfilled the vision I have for creating couture Scotland.'
New Yorkers have been celebrating all things Scottish this week, and the Dressed To Kilt fashion extravaganza brought a slew of tartan-loving celebs to the catwalk at the city's Copacabana nightclub.
Billed as a "Scottish evening of fashion and fun", the show featured famous names such as Sex And The City's Kyle MacLachlan, Phantom Of The Opera star Gerard Butler, and media mogul Ted Turner showing off the latest in kilt design along with their bare legs.
Though they may have seemed geographically out of line with the evening's "Glasgow Meets Havana at the Copacabana" theme, sizzling Swedish pin-ups Marcus Schenkenberg and Victoria Silvstedt were also on hand, with the curvaceous Playboy playmate appearing in a shoulder-baring plaid dress.
But it was Scottish pop star Darius Danesh who seemed the most keen to show off what he had under his kilt, giving onlookers a flash of his bottom as he strutted his stuff on the catwalk.