Sue Bennett was emotional when she first met Sharron Jones. They talked about Sharron’s daughter, Amy, whose liver saved Sue’s life after her own life was ended by an epileptic seizure
Image: Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)
When Sue Bennett and Sharron Jones first met, they sobbed and hugged like old friends.
They had longed for this moment. Now they would honor it.
Sue sat down, lifting the hem of her shirt and letting Sharron feel the scar where the doctors had implanted the new liver that had saved her life.
This amazing gift was donated by Sharron’s daughter Amy after her own life was cut short 14 months earlier by an epileptic seizure when she was just 24 years old.
Sue, 48, says: “There were a lot of tears. I tried to keep my composure, but I felt so guilty that I was there and Amy wasn’t.
“We were attached and I blurted out, ‘Can you forgive me?’
Sharron insisted there was nothing to give and then presented Sue with an album of photos and letters written by Amy’s friends and family.
Sue says, “Flipping through the book I learned who Amy was and felt closer to her. She was no longer a stranger. She was my hero, full of life and loved by her family.”
In return, Sue gave Sharron the gold medal she had won in the 800 meters at the British Transplant Games weeks earlier. “That was all I had to offer her to say thank you,” Sue admits.
Sharron, 53, from Wrexham, says: “When she gave me this medal my heart stopped. It was such an amazing thing that she had achieved, I couldn’t believe she wanted me to have it.
“She has given me every single medal she has won at the UK, European and World Transplant Games since. Each of them is absolutely priceless.
“I keep them in a keepsake box and hang them on my Christmas tree every year.”
Daily Mirror / Sharron Jones)
This weekend, Sue hopes to give Sharron a new medal by becoming one of a select few transplant recipients to complete a half-Ironman challenge.
She will swim 1.2 miles, bike 61 miles and finish with a grueling 13.1 mile run.
To make it even more special, the event is taking place in Sue’s native Staffordshire on the seventh anniversary of her transplant.
And for the first time, Sharron will be there to cheer them on. She will join Sue’s husband Anthony, 50, and three children, Millie, 19, Billy, 17, and Jack, 15.
Sharron says: “I’m so excited. I don’t think Amy ran to the bus so it’s amazing to think her liver helped Sue achieve so much.”
Sue first became seriously ill 15 years ago. Her weight dropped, she bruised, and she became so tired that she fell asleep in the middle of phone calls.
Even worse was the itching that shook her whole body. She had medicated baths and wrapped herself in zinc-soaked bandages, but it was still “torture.”
Daily Mirror / Sharron Jones)
She was eventually diagnosed with primary biliary cholangitis (PBC), a fatal liver disease that many patients can control with medication, but her condition continued to worsen.
Sue was placed on the transplant waiting list in November 2014 and her brother volunteered as a living donor, but she had lost so much weight that his liver was too large.
When time was running out she was placed on the urgent waiting list and eventually she got the call she had been waiting for and was taken by ambulance to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham for her transplant.
She says: “It felt like my last chance but when I got there they told me my donor wasn’t dead yet. She was on life support with her mother at her bedside.
“I can’t put into words the utter devastation when I realized I had to wait for a girl to die in order to live. I just wanted her to open her eyes and go home. I was on my knees crying.”
Amy never woke up. After suffering an epileptic seizure in her bathroom and falling behind the door, no one could reach her in time. Although paramedics resuscitated her, she was taken off life support four days later.
After saying goodbye, Sharron agreed to donate Amy’s organs. Her liver went to Sue while her kidneys saved two other women.
Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)
Sharron says: “I don’t think I could have made this decision if we hadn’t talked about organ donation. We had this conversation because my sister-in-law, Julie, died while she was waiting for new lungs.
“I didn’t expect to donate Amy’s organs in 18 months, but I knew she would never have forgiven me if I said no. She was kind, caring and funny, but she could also be strong-willed.”
Sue’s transplant on June 12, 2015 lasted nine hours and it took her several days to become fully aware of her surroundings.
“The first thing I remember is my husband brushing my hair,” she said. “Then I realized I wasn’t itchy anymore. I hadn’t felt this good in years.”
Sue immediately began searching for information about her donor before sending an anonymous letter to Sharron along with pictures her children had drawn.
The couple first met in August 2016 at a Cheshire hotel where Amy had been working. Over the past six years, they have forged a friendship that will last a lifetime.
Sharron says: “I’ve been worried about Sue during the pandemic because she’s been through so much and I knew she would be more vulnerable after her transplant.
“It means so much to me to know that Amy is with her and surrounded by a loving family. It’s enough to help me close my eyes at night and wake up again.”
This bond is just as special for Sue.
She says: “Amy gave me a whole new life. My illness showed me how precious this is and I want to make the most of it.
“I know the disease could return. Some people need a second or even a third transplant.
“But I can’t imagine losing this piece of Amy that was given to me. I’ll keep it for Sharron and I’ll take care of it as best I can.”
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/woman-who-liver-transplant-forms-27202710 A woman who has had a liver transplant forms a special friendship with her donor's mother