Miss Universe GB finalist, 20, dies after battle with rare genetic condition

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A Miss Universe finalist has died from a rare genetic condition.

Saarah Ahmed, from Carlisle in Cumbria, lost her battle with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) – an incurable disorder that affects organs, bones, joints, skin, blood vessels, tendons and ligaments.

The 20-year-old student reached the Great Britain final last year, but was forced to pull out due to health issues and due to the lockdown.

While meeting the judges, Saarah used the opportunity to highlight the disorder.

Now mum Shefaly Begum says she wants to continue her daughter's work by educating more people about it.

"Saarah was determined to raise awareness about hidden disabilities such as EDS," she told The Sun.

"That's what motivated her when she became a finalist in Miss Universe Great Britain.

"She was a beautiful person – caring and wise beyond her years. She had so much wisdom. She wanted to go to university to study neurology. She wanted to help other people.

"She was our only daughter and she was our princess."

Saarah, who also leaves her dad and four brothers, had several major operations on her back to repair her curved spine.

In her video submission to the glitzy beauty contest, she said: "If I was to be Miss Universe Great Britain, I'd bring awareness to hidden disabilities, using myself as an example.

"I'd show the day-to-day struggles we face. I’d like to raise awareness of Ehler-Danlos syndrome particularly.

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"There are only 15 people living with my condition in the UK. My condition affects every part of my body.

"Some problems I face are my bones dislocating every day; extreme pain; heart problems; and curvature of the spine and I’ve have many surgeries to correct that.

"Just to get out of bed is a huge struggle for me. Although it will be a very tough journey, I want to prove to everyone that I’m able to do this too."

Paula Abbandonato, director of Miss Universe Great Britain, paid an emotional tribute to Saarah, saying: "I have organised the Miss Universe Great Britain competition since 2008 and it is not often that I meet a contestant who makes such a lasting impression as Saarah.

"The pandemic put a stop to Saarah competing last year, but we had every hope that she would return in 2021. Our hearts are broken.

"This world has lost a beautiful woman and a wonderful soul. Our thoughts and prayers go to her family who we know loved and cared for her so much."

Saarah, who was studying A-Levels in sociology and psychology, died on Tuesday after suffering from liver failure and severe colitis at Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.

Her official cause of death has not yet been confirmed.

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