When young mum Joanna Steele’s kidney started to fail her family was desperate to save her life.
And when it became evident that dialysis and other treatments would not work, her sister Clare stepped in and donated one of her kidneys.
It gave Joanna, from Easton on the Hill, a new lease of life - for a while.
Nineteen months later her body rejected the kidney and on January 2 this year she died, with her partner Mark Mansfield and her family by her side.
Now the Steeles - mum Mary, dad Michael and sisters Clare and Gemma - from Collyweston, have decided to raise funds for Kidney Research UK in order to help someone else “to live longer”.
Mum of 10-year-old Ryan, Joanna, was just 25 and pregnant with her second child when she went to the doctors after feeling ill.
Sister Clare, 28, who owns Clare’s Beauty Room, in Nassington, said: “The doctor said her blood pressure was ‘heart attack high’ and called an ambulance to take her to hospital.
“That’s when they realised that her kidneys were failing.”
The baby Joanna was carrying had to be aborted and for the next two years she had regular dialysis. Then it became apparent that the only option left to save her life was a kidney transplant.
Michael and Clare had the necessary tests and it was decided that Clare would be the donor.
Clare said: “I knew that if I didn’t donate my kidney my sister would die.”
On May 3, 2012 Clare’s kidney was transplanted in Joanna at Leicester General Hospital.
Clare said: “Her body responded straight away: she was sitting up, talking and laughing and had rosy cheeks. But I was still on a different planet as my body was in shock. It took me a lot longer.
“But she was up and down from word go.”
At the end of October last year Joanna contracted a chest infection which she could not shake off.
On December 15, 2013, Joanna felt ill and began struggling to breathe, Mark alerted Leicester General and set off for the hospital with his wife.
Clare said: “He got to Morcott and pulled up and called an ambulance, because Joanna was really struggling to breath.”
When the paramedics arrived Joanna had stopped breathing. She was resuscitated and taken to Peterborough City Hospital.
Once she had stabilised they drove her to Leicester General in a state of induced coma to give her body a chance to recover.
Joanna did not wake up and remained in a coma for 17 days.
Clare said: “She had stopped breathing for 17 minutes which was a very long time. The doctors did as much as they could to try and bring her round, but there was too much damage to the brain for her to function. So they suggested that we should let her go.” On New Year’s Eve Joanna was taken off the dialysis machine and liquid feeds and kept comfortable with morphine.
She died on January 2 with all her family by her side.
Clare said: “I never had a second’s doubt about donating my kidney to my sister.
“It gave my sister 19 more months of life which is better than nothing.
“It’s nice to know that I did help her but it’s sad that I could not save her life.”
On 25 September Joanna would have been 30 years old. To mark her birthday the family will host their first fund-raising event tomorrow (September 20) at the Collyweston Slater, in Main Road.
From 6pm onwards people can drop in for the barbecue and raffle and enjoy live music from Take Note.
Clare, who is a member of the Stamford striders running club, will also be taking part in April’s London Marathon.
To donate to the Steele family’s fundraising for Kidney Research Foundation go to www.justgiving.co.uk/claresteele28.
Kidney Research UK conducts research to find better treatments and cures for kidney disease. The charity also provide information for patients and raises awareness of kidney-related health conditions.