A 21-YEAR-OLD woman who has been plagued by health problems since she was a baby is facing an agonising wait for a third vital organ transplant.

Afton Gemmell had two liver transplants when she was 12, but now needs a life-saving kidney transplant as well.

The family hope her dad, Mark, may be a suitable donor match, but her mum, Heather, is also urging people to sign up to the Organ Donor Register.

Mrs Gemmell, 45, said: “Signing up to the Organ Donor Register is so important,” she said. “I would encourage everyone to do it. They call it the gift of life and that is exactly what it is. It saves the lives of people like Afton and so many like her.”

When Afton was born, her parents thought she was a “perfectly happy and healthy baby” but they were given the heartbreaking news she was suffering from liver failure, which led to her having the two transplants when she was 12.

Afton, who lives with her parents in Thorpe Willoughby, near Selby, but went to Applefields School in York, needs a kidney transplant due to deteriorating health problems.

Mrs Gemmell, a finance officer at Selby High School, said it was after she had noticed the onset of jaundice in her toddler that she took Afton to hospital and she was told her daughter’s liver was not working properly.

The onset of liver failure meant Afto n then suffered a brain haemorrhage that nearly killed her. “We were told it was a miracle she lived,” said Mrs Gemmell.

The haemorrhage meant Afton suffered brain damage leading to a string of health problems aside from her liver failure, including being an insulin-dependent diabetic and having a weaker right side of her body than her left. It has also led to her kidneys now failing, meaning she will soon need a transplant.

The family hope Afton’s father will be a donor match, but their predicament reflects the importance of the Organ Donor Register, said Mrs Gemmell.

She said described Afton as “absolutely fantastic” and said: “Most people in their lifetime will never have to experience one of the things she has had to put up with. She is just so exceptionally brave.”

Since Afton was 18-months old, Mr and Mrs Gemmell and, later on, their teenage sons, Ross 19, and Aidan, 15, have been fundraising for the Leeds-based Childrens Liver & Kidney Transplant Unit where Afton had her life-saving operations and was looked after by a “brilliant team of staff”. The family also raises funds for the British Transplant Games.

Afton annually competes in the British Transplant Games in the swimming, walking, ball-throw and ten-pin bowling categories, in which she scooped a bronze medal in this year’s competition.

The Gemmell family have raised tens of thousands of pounds since they began fundraising.

They raised £3,605 from a music charity night at Selby Working Club during the summer, and donations were topped up my Mark’s colleagues at Alston, the engineering company he works for. They now plan to make the evening an annual event.


Lifesavers campaign 

The Press ran its Lifesavers’ campaign in 2010 to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation and to recruit thousands of new donors.

Our drive was launched following the death of 22-year-old Miss York finalist Emma Young, who died while awaiting a double lung transplant.

To join the register or get more information, phone 0300 1232323 or visit nhsbt.nhs.uk or text SAVE to 84118.