A Wigan woman whose soul mate died following a heart transplant, is encouraging others to sign the donor register to “give people a chance at life”.
Celli Taylor, from Worsley Hall, lost her wife Claire Taylor (nee Farrimond) in September last year after she battled numerous infections for months following the gruelling operation.
The 37-year-old, who married her sweetheart at Freeman hospital in Newcastle last summer, said that she would urge everyone to donate their organs even though the procedure “might not work every time.”
She was speaking out after Wigan dad Dave Hughes underwent similar surgery at the same hospital.
Celli wants to offer her support to Dave’s partner Louise Sedgwick and their families.
Celli, who has been left devastated in the wake of her death, said that Claire - who was 34 when she died - only ever had a “one in three chance” of survival due to a procedure she had undergone previously.
But she says despite her death, she wouldn’t do things any differently.
Celli said: “Once you have had the Fontan procedure, you are eventually going to need a heart transplant,” she said.
“I know it didn’t work for Claire - but she had to have it or she wouldn’t have survived anyway. It gave her a chance.
“She did really well, she had a couple of things throughout her life but it was 2016 when she started to become unwell. She was amazing. You can ask anyone and they would say the say; she never let anything hold her back.”
The couple met in 2004 at Manchester Pride, but it was not until five years later that they officially became an item. They would have been celebrating their eighth anniversary this year.
“You only get one chance at a soul mate,” said Celli. “And I have lost mine. Going through something like this, it’s just not a battle for the person who has had the transplant. It’s a battle to stay positive in front of them.
“You see them so poorly but you have to keep it together. You have to do it for them because if they see you falling to pieces they know something is wrong.”
After falling ill, Claire was referred to Newcastle hospital and eventually travelled to the North East in May of 2017.
She was told that she would need an emergency transplant and was put on the urgent list to wait for the perfect heart to come through.
In the meantime, the couple arranged to be married and were eventually granted their wish in June, a month before Claire’s big op.
“The hospital were brilliant,” said Celli. “Our wedding was no normal hospital wedding. It was amazing and the staff from different areas pulled together to make it so special. It was the day of our dreams. We didn’t even think we were in hospital because of what they did for us.”
Sadly Claire died just three months later. The former Pemberton High School student had lived with a congenital heart disease her entire life. Claire suffered from hypoplastic left heart syndrome, meaning that the left side of her heart was non-existent.
There was hope when Claire went in for her operation in July, despite the overwhelming concern that she was at greater risk due to her previous surgeries.
“Claire was so brave and underwent one of the hardest if not the hardest transplant they can do,” added Celli.
“The outcome was bleak, but she bravely fought it. On top of that, which is traumatic as it is, because of her previous surgeries her heart was stuck to her sternum with healing tissue so it was very dangerous just to open her up.”
Celli stayed by her new wife’s side as she fought off numerous infections following her surgery.
“She got an infection in her groin which turned into sepsis,” said Celli. “She started getting better and then she got a chest infection.
“She was starting to heal then she would get knocked back by infections. Every time she seemed to get better something happened. Just when you thought you had turned a corner, another bumpy road came along.”
In late September, Claire suffered from a fatal bleed, leaving surgeons with no option but to stop treatment and gain permission from Celli to turn off the life support machines.
Despite the ordeal, Celli has remained a strong advocate for organ donation.
“It’s not as simple as a heart just becoming available,” she said. “There’s lots of different factors. With there being such a variety of people who need organs, it’s important that these donations go ahead. It might not work - it doesn’t always but it’s always worth that chance. It’s worth it to give someone that chance at life.”
To view more images click here