An office worker died after contracting a mystery infection, which left her in need of an organ transplant within weeks.
Jade Gulliver, from the Isle of Wight, died waiting for a transplant only a few weeks after being diagnosed with liver failure due to viral hepatitis.
The 27-year-old, who left behind a three year old son and a six month old son, had been fit and well until her sudden deterioration.
“It was a bit of mystery how she picked up the infection,” her sister Crystal Gulliver, 23, from Cowes, said.
“She had no symptoms other than waking up with slightly yellow eyes one morning in May, and she took herself to A&E.”
Doctors couldn’t initially find anything wrong, but Jade had to go back to hospital a week later after waking up with water retention in her ankles.
She was kept in hospital for another 10 days but it was only after she was transferred to Kings College Hospital in London that her condition was diagnosed.
“They asked about tattoos, blood transfusions and all sorts but they could never work out where it came from,” Crystal said.
Jade, an office manager for a construction company, was known for being giving.
Crystal, who works in accounts for her parents’ company, said: “She was absolutely loved by everyone. She was a selfless person – she always thought of others.
“She was seven years older than me [and] in some ways she was like another mother to me. She asked me to be her birthing partner.”
Jade’s health continued to quickly deteriorate and on July 10 she was put on the transplant waiting list.
Crystal said: “She was getting sicker and sicker – she didn’t want to eat but she kept getting bigger because of the fluid retention.
“It was awful when they broke the news that she needed a transplant. They called us all into a room and told us the damage was too severe for her liver to heal itself.
“You hear about transplants on the telly but you never expect it to happen to someone you know, especially at such a young age.”
Jade’s health continued to go ever further downhill. She was moved on to the urgent liver transplant waiting list and eventually placed into an induced coma to try and buy her more time until an organ became available.
Crystal said: “I can’t explain what it was like, waiting every day for a phone call that never came.”
The family were told one potential liver became available. However, it was eventually matched to another recipient and Jade died on 28 July 2014.
Crystal is sharing Jade’s story now to support Organ Donation Week, which is running from 4-10 September.
Crystal and her parents have pulled together with Jade’s partner to help look after the two children the couple had together, Kai, now aged five, and Max, now aged three.
Crystal, who has run awareness events and done charity runs to support donation, said: “We take the boys to the bench we have in Jade’s memory for birthdays and anniversaries and we show them pictures. They think she is either on the end of a phone or in the sky. It’s awful, heartbreaking.”
She added: “I will be the first to admit before this tragedy, I also was almost ignorant to organ donation. I didn’t know anything about and you don’t expect it to happen to you.
“It’s not until something like this happens that you realise how much organ donation is needed.
“Now I want to do everything in my power to prevent this from happening, so that no more families have to go through what our family has been through, and is going through.”
Anthony Clarkson, assistant director of Organ Donation for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “It’s a tragedy: hundreds of people are dying unnecessarily every year waiting for transplants.
“We know that if everyone who supported donation talked about it and agreed to donate, most of those lives would be saved.
“This Organ Donation Week, tell your family you want to save lives. A few words now can make an extraordinary difference. It will also make things much easier for your family to make the right decision.
“If you want to save lives, don’t leave it too late to talk to your family. If you want to be a donor, your family’s support is still needed for donation to go ahead, even if you are on the NHS Organ Donor Register.
“And if you are unsure about donation, please ask yourselves as a family; what would you do if one of you needed a transplant? Would you accept a lifesaving organ? If you’d take an organ, shouldn’t you be prepared to donate?”
Only one in every hundred people die in circumstances where they could donate, so every potential donor is precious.
NHS Blood and Transplant’s annual audit of potential donors in 2016/17 shows 177 families said no to donation because “they were not sure whether the patient would have agreed”.
Based on last year’s average number of 2.6 transplants per deceased donor, those refusals could instead have led to around 460 lifesaving or life transforming transplants.
You can sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register here.