Family's debt to Ashni, 12, after parting gift of kidney donation

Gemma Sturge

Gemma Sturge with sons Austin (left) and Harley - Credit: Chris Bishop

Like any other mum with two growing boys and a job to juggle, Gemma Sturge has got her hands full.

But none of them might have been here today were it not for the family of a 12-year-old girl, who offered her organs for donation after she died.

One of Mrs Sturge's kidneys had not grown properly when she was a child and by her mid-20s, her other kidney was suffering from scarring from doing the work of two and was functioning at just 6pc. Her health was going downhill fast.

Gemma Sturge

Gemma Sturge suffered serious kidney problems until she received a transplant from a 12-year-old girl - Credit: Chris Bishop

"I was really unwell," said Mrs Sturge, a 36-year-old NHS worker from King's Lynn. "I had a lot of fatigue and nausea, I just felt tired all the time. I struggled to get out of bed, I struggled to get to work."

Late in 2010,  doctors warned her she would need a life-changing transplant. The following year, they said she would soon have to begin dialysis, which would mean she would not be able to have children.


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"I'd been with my husband, Gary, since school," she said. "We were high school sweethearts. We'd got married and we just wanted to have kids.

Gemma Sturge at Addenbroke's. Photo: Gemma Sturge

Gemma Sturge recovering at Addenbrooke's after her transplant - Credit: Gemma Sturge

"We discussed surrogacy, adoption, fostering. I so wanted to be a mum but I wouldn't be strong enough to carry. I used to get quite upset about it."

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Mrs Sturge steeled herself for a five-year wait for a kidney to become available because of her rare blood group. She was due to have the procedure to prepare her for dialysis in February 2012.

Almost 100 miles away in Leicester Paresh and Kalpna Parmar's 12-year-old daughter Ashni died after suffering a blood clot on her brain whilst being treated in hospital.

As their world fell apart the Parmars, who were both on the organ donor register, bravely decided to give others the chance of a life that their daughter had been so cruelly denied.

Gemma Sturge after her surgery. Photo: Gemma Sturge

Gemma Sturge after her transplant at Addenbrooke's - Credit: Gemma Sturge

Mrs Sturge received a phone call telling her to go to Addenbrooke's Hospital, where she would have a transplant from one of little Ashni's kidneys.

The transplant went well. Mrs Sturge felt well for the first time in years.

Soon afterwards doctors told the Sturges they could begin trying to start a family. Weeks later, she learned she was pregnant with Harley, who is now eight.

"When I found I was pregnant, I just couldn't believe it," she said. "I cried so many times."

Harley was followed by a little brother Austin, now five. In 2015, Mrs Sturge contacted Ashni's parents to thank them for the offer of an organ transplant.

Gemma Sturge holding up a picture of the girl donor with the girl's mother: Picture submitted

Gemma Sturge holding up a picture of Ashni with her mother, Kalpna Parmar - Credit: Submitted

'Not only did it completely change my life for the better but it gave others life too," she said. "From what her family tell me she donated to seven people."

The couples would go on to meet and become close friends.

"It was really nerve-wracking meeting these people who've done something that must have been so hard to do," she said. "I can't even imagine it really.

"I'm just forever grateful, I'm keeping Ashni's legacy going. There were a lot of tears shed when we saw each other, I really felt for them.

"I just said: 'She's living on in me and I'm forever grateful. They're great, they're a lovely family."

Mrs  Parmar said: "It was lovely seeing them. We message each other, we send birthday cards and presents to the kids. I am so very proud of Ashni."

NHS Blood and Transfusion says fewer than 50pc of parents who are asked whether they would consent to their child's organs or tissue being donated to help others agree.

 If Ashni's mother and father had refused, Mrs Sturge, Harley and Austin might not be here today.

Patients desperately wait for transplants

There are currently 36 people on the waiting list for a transplant in Norfolk,  29 in Suffolk and 46 in Cambridgeshire.

Last year 168 people from the three counties had their lives saved by a transplant after someone died and donated their organs.

All adults are automatically placed on the donor list if they do not opt-out. But loved ones can overrule this if they are not sure of your wishes before the worst happens.

Those faced with the loss of a child are asked whether they would consider donating.

NHS Blood and Transplants said: "Families need to talk about donation, and for all members of the family. People of all ages can save lives, some children need a child to donate to help them but they can also help adults, as in Gemma’s case, a child saved her life, she’s gone on to have children."

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