Sis­ter life­saver

She steps in with kid­ney for dad af­ter sib­ling’s can­cer blow

Sunday Mirror - - SAIRAKHAN - BY

DE­VOTED daugh­ter Claire Eg­gle­ton was a week away from giv­ing her dad the kid­ney that would save his life when doc­tors told her the op­er­a­tion was off – be­cause she had breast can­cer.

In­stead of pre­par­ing to be a trans­plant donor Claire, 46, be­gan life-sav­ing chemo­ther­apy of her own, an or­deal made worse be­liev­ing it might sen­tence her dad Wil­liam Rillstone to death.

She broke the dev­as­tat­ing news to Wil­liam, 72, and wife Gwen, 75, then went home to tell her two sons and the fi­ancé she had been plan­ning to marry.

She did not know that the trans­plant process had al­ready be­gun again...

As soon as she heard, Claire’s younger sis­ter Kathryn, 43, called doc­tors and vol­un­teered her own kid­ney in­stead.

As Claire had ra­dio­ther­apy, a lumpec­tomy, six rounds of chemo­ther­apy, lost her hair and suf­fered ter­ri­ble nau­sea and mouth ul­cers, Kathryn sup­ported her – while pre­par­ing for her own op.

“I felt ter­ri­ble,” said Claire. “I felt so low, just black, like there was no joy.


“The day Kathryn went to the hos­pi­tal I cried say­ing: ‘It should have been me.’ I felt I’d let every­one down.

“As the older sis­ter, I al­ways pro­tected Kathryn, and I was full of guilt that the one thing I could do for my dad af­ter all he’d done for me had been taken away.”

The trans­plant ear­lier this year was a suc­cess, but it took months for Wil­liam and Kathryn to re­cover.

It wasn’t un­til this sum­mer – three years af­ter Wil­liam’s ill­ness be­gan – that the fam­ily, from Sal­is­bury, fi­nally had a chance to cel­e­brate as Claire mar­ried.

“We all needed that cel­e­bra­tion,” she said. “It was amaz­ing for us all to have made it that far.

“We had al­most called off the wed­ding at so many points, but I’m so glad we didn’t as it gave us all some­thing to get bet­ter for.”

The fam­ily’s or­deal be­gan in 2014 when Wil­liam – who had never had a day off sick in 50 years as a train driver – was rushed to hos­pi­tal with pneu­mo­nia.

His kid­neys failed and he was put on to dial­y­sis.

“He went down­hill rapidly,” said Claire. “He took a turn for the worse so we talked about trans­plants and my sis­ter and I were a match.”

The sis­ters agreed teacher Claire would do­nate a kid­ney as she was phys­i­cally fit­ter and had a wider sup­port net­work than sin­gle mum Kathryn.

“I wanted them to wait and think about it,” re­calls Wil­liam. “They had kids and the rest of their lives ahead of them.”

But dur­ing fi­nal pre-op tests in Fe­bru­ary 2015, doc­tors at Portsmouth Hos­pi­tal found he had My­loma – a can­cer of the blood in his bone mar­row – and called it off. The only hos­pi­tal that SUP­PORT: FIT AND WEDDY: SUR­VIVOR: now agreed to do the high risk op­er­a­tion was Guy’s Hos­pi­tal, Lon­don, who be­gan the long test­ing process all over again.

A week be­fore the new trans­plant date last Oc­to­ber – with her dad grow­ing weaker – Claire found a Mal­teser-sized lump and men­tioned it to a doc­tor.

“Within a week I was hav­ing scans, mam­mo­grams and biop­sies,” she said. “I was dev­as­tated be­cause of Dad. Let­ting him down was the worst thing.”

Men­tal health worker Kathryn went with her to chemo and looked af­ter her sons, James, 16, and Will, 14, and step­son Josh Eg­gle­ton, 13.

“She was so brave,” said Kathryn. “It was hard to see her go through some­thing like that, and to see dad suf­fer­ing as well.”

Last Easter it was Claire’s turn to care for her sis­ter. As Kathryn came round af­ter the op, Claire was at her bed­side. Hours later, their dad was wheeled in to the ward for an emo­tional re­union.

“I’m very priv­i­leged to have such lovely daugh­ters,” said Wil­liam. “I’m so grate­ful to them.” His pride shone through as FA­THER’S PRIDE: Claire mar­ried mil­i­tary po­lice of­fi­cer Richard Eg­gle­ton, 38.

“It was an emo­tional day,” said Claire.

“I caught Dad’s eye as I was walked down the aisle by my two boys and he had to look away he was so teary.

“I choked up dur­ing our vows. We said we’d all done the In Sick­ness bit, now it’s time for In Health.” ■■Claire was sup­ported by Breast Can­cer Care. To raise vi­tal funds visit www. breast­cancer­­to­ber


Claire dur­ing can­cer ops Kathryn with dad in hos­pi­tal Proud Wil­liam (left) at daugh­ter Claire’s wed­ding Wil­liam with daugh­ters who both vol­un­teered to save his life

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