Milestone with new plea for more donors I had heart transplant as a baby & I’m still full of life at 30
Dr Gareth Parry. Kaylee recalled: “You have to have a sense of humour when you’re in hospital and we definitely did. “You either sink or swim, and we swam like hell. “We’d go to our appointments in Minion onesies and it got to the point when Gareth said he’d have to separate us because we wound him up so much.” Joanne passed away suddenly in 2016, aged just 40, after her kidneys failed and she was struck down by pneumonia. Her mum Pauline rang Kaylee with the news, prompting her to burst into floods of tears.
Kaylee said: “When that phone call came I was gutted. My mum grabbed me and just hugged me.
“It didn’t sink in until Joanne’s funeral that she was gone. Then I felt so alone.”
Kaylee’s anniversary celebration on October 14, in which she will walk across the Millennium Bridge over the River Tyne, will be a bittersweet occasion without Joanne by her side.
She said: “Joanne will be at the front of my mind and she’ll be with me in spirit. I’ll get through it but it will be hard.”
Three years ago both friends were re-admitted to hospital at the same time with serious health problems, including heart failure.
Kaylee said: “I nearly died but being poorly together was a huge support for us both. We helped each other out.” After Kaylee was released from hospital her mental health suffered and she plunged into depression.
She was told by doctors she had to give up her job as a visual merchandiser for clothes giant H&M and stop doing any exercise, forcing her to give up training for the World Transplant Games.
She had competed in the British version since she was only two years old, starting with the wellie throw and graduating to the 100m and relay. She went on to represent the UK in athletics, badminton and 10pin bowling, winning a relay gold medal at the World Games in South Africa – to the joy of watching mum Carol and stepdad Steven.
With exercise denied her she “went off the rails”, trashed her room and even left home for a while.
After seeing a psychologist she is gradually getting her life back on track. She said: “Transplantation is a rollercoaster and once you’re on it you have the ups and downs. But I love my heart and I’m very proud of it.”
Kaylee’s mum Carol, 49, said: “I am thrilled she has reached this milestone. I remember doctors saying she might not get a donor or live to be one.
“I t ’ s an i ncredible achievement not only for Kaylee but the medical profession too.”
TO sign the Organ Donor Register visit www. organdonation.nhs.uk
WINNER: Kaylee as UK athlete at Transplant Games MIRACLE: Carol and baby Kaylee in 1987 and, right, on the 25th anniversary of her op PRIDE: In South Africa with Carol and Steven