COURAGEOUS double heart transplant teenager Sarah Barton has died after collapsing while on a day out with her dad.
The East Herrington teenager – who just turned 17 last month – was with dad Peter in Newcastle on Saturday when she became ill in the street.
Despite valiant attempts by a passing Army medic, paramedics and hospital staff at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, her heart had failed and she couldn’t be revived.
Her devastated parents Bev, 49, and 50-year-old Peter, of Lambton Court, who both work as audiologists, said today that losing Sarah so suddenly has been a devastating shock, but they consoled themselves with the thought that their daughter died while she was enjoying her life.
Bev said: “We had gone through three periods of her in intensive care and wouldn’t have wanted her to suffer a fourth.
“It was like living with a ticking timebomb. We knew Sarah had a life-limiting condition, and I thought I had prepared myself for this, but I don’t think you really can.”
A healthy child, Sarah became critically ill shortly before her 11th birthday, with doctors believing a virus had caused her heart to fail. A machine kept her alive, while an urgent search across Europe was made to find a donor.
The plucky youngster remained well for two years before becoming seriously ill again. She was just hours from death when a second heart transplant was carried out.
But, after that, she went on to live life to the full, enjoying holidays and time with her family and friends, and winning a Pride of Wearside Award for her bravery.
Peter said that in November Sarah’s body started to reject the heart and she was in intensive care, but rallied round and was allowed home at Christmas.
He said: “On Saturday, Bev was at work so we decided to go to Newcastle for lunch, and we had tickets for the cinema. We had a lovely lunch and were just walking along and she said she felt sick. I sat her down on the pavement and put my arm around her and she just collapsed backwards.”
Despite their grief, Sarah’s family say they are so grateful to all the medical teams who have cared for her.
Bev said: “She could easily have died when she was 11, and we are so thankful for the extra six years we have had with her. We have been able to see her grow up.”
Peter said: “She was so loved and she never, ever complained. She would always ask after other people.”
Sarah’s family, including her brothers, Chris, 19, and Andrew, 22, are taking comfort from the hundreds of messages of sympathy from people saying how much the teenager inspired them.
Everyone who knew Sarah is welcome at the funeral service at Sunderland crematorium at 10am on Monday, and afterwards at Ashbrooke Rugby Club. Because Sarah’s family want it to be a celebration of her life, people are asked to wear colourful clothes.