A TEENAGER with ME who overcame her condition to save a young boy from drowning off the Cumbrian coast has been hailed a national hero.

Juliet Tanti, then 18, of Simonstone Road, Sabden, was on holiday in Ravenglass in the Lake District, when she saw seven-year-old Daniel Whitehead swept away by a tidal current.

Despite not having swum for years because of an illness that at times leaves her bedridden, Juliet dived fully clothed into the water to reach the boy and bring him to safety.

She has now been voted Local Hero of the Year 2007 by Reader's Digest readers.

Daniel was on holiday with his mother, Kate Whitehead, her partner Alan McKenna, his brother and the son of a family friend when Mr McKenna and the boys got into trouble.

Mrs Whitehead said: "What Juliet did was fantastic.

"I was convinced I was watching my son die. Daniel wouldn't be here today without her."

For over eight years 20-year-old Juliet has battled against ME (myalgic encephalopathy), a debilitating and little-understood disease characterized by chronic flu-like symptoms, acute fatigue and at times severe pain.

Even the most routine physical activity leaves her confined to her bed for weeks, causing her to miss years of school.

Juliet and friend Kaite Mottram, were on holiday at her grandparents' home, and had been taking a short lunchtime stroll by the estuary when they heard children screaming.

A man and three small boys were struggling in the rising tide. The girls watched in horror as Daniel, from Preston, was prised from the man's grasp by the waves.

Julie knew the dangers of the tide, which is funnelled down a narrow sandbar to form a large wave that pounds the estuary, rising by up to 10 feet in a few hours.

As Kaite ran to get help, she acted instinctively, diving into the water to reach Daniel. Struggling against strong currents, she managed to pull him back to the shore.

The rescue took its toll on Juliet. She suffered a severe relapse and did not regain her previous strength for several months.

Wendy Holloway, from the Association of Young People with ME, told Reader's Digest: "What she did was far beyond anything she could normally manage. She saved a life, but at the expense of her own health."

The rescue was in August, 2006, and details were published in the magazine in September, 2007.

Nearly two years on, Daniel still has nightmares about the incident and knows he is lucky to be alive.

The family remain in touch with Juliet and they exchange Christmas presents every year.

Juliet remains modest about what happened.

She said: "A young boy's life was at stake and I did what anyone would have done in that situation.

"I am glad that I was there to help him."