Sunderland siblings closer than ever after bone marrow transplant saved sister’s life

Sisters Beth, left, and Aimee Easterbrook-Smith, who are organising a charity fundraiser.
Sisters Beth, left, and Aimee Easterbrook-Smith, who are organising a charity fundraiser.
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Two siblings from Sunderland are closer than ever two years after one sister was given the gift of life by the other.

Aimee Easterbrook-Smith, from Roker, donated some of her bone marrow to save her big sister Beth’s life after she was diagnosed with leukaemia.

Beth (left) and Aimee Easterbrooke-Smith on transplant day.

Beth (left) and Aimee Easterbrooke-Smith on transplant day.

Beth, now 20, underwent gruelling chemotherapy, but her family was told that a transplant was her only chance of survival.

Little sister Aimee, now aged 19, did not hesitate to undergo tests, which revealed her to be a match.

The inseparable pair, who describe themselves as best friends, are now planning to give something back to the Teenage Cancer Trust, which was such a help during Beth’s illness.

The sisters – along with pals Danika Sydney and Faye Fothergill – are organising a charity fun day to raise money during the August bank holiday weekend.

We are the best of friends and I think what we have been through has made us closer as well

Aimee Easterbrook-Smith

The family-friendly event will take place at The Albion, in Roker, from 2pm until late on Sunday, August 27.

However, despite receiving a matching transplant and going into remission for her cancer, it hasn’t been plain sailing for Beth.

She suffered a number of complications as a result of her treatment and has been in and out of hospital for lengthy stays many times.

Following the procedure, in April 2015, she spent eight weeks in Newcastle’s Royal Victora Infirmary to ensure her body would not reject the bone marrow.

Sisters Beth, right, and Aimee Easterbrook-Smith.

Sisters Beth, right, and Aimee Easterbrook-Smith.

Three weeks later, she developed graft versus host disease (GvHD) caused when the donated bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells view the recipient’s body as foreign and attack the body.

Beth returned to hospital, where she stayed for nine weeks. She also developed haemostasis, a bleeding complication as well as fluid on her lung.

Aimee said: “She wasn’t allowed to eat or drink for nine weeks and she lost five stone.

“She was on a syringe drip for three weeks and she was more poorly then than when she had the transplant.

“Her body was fighting what it thought was a foreign body.

“She was very weak and because she couldn’t get out of bed the muscles in her legs wasted away and she couldn’t walk.

“The steroids rotted away her hip and she had her right hip replaced.

“She has been in and out of hospital with infections and she now has cataracts in her eyes.”

But despite all Beth has been through, she is determined to help others by training to be a nurse.

Having just completed an access course at Sunderland College, she will be starting a nursing degree at Northumbria University in September.

And her adoring sister Aimee hopes to follow in her footsteps to by training to be a social worker after completing the same access course.

The girls have come a long way since the transplant when Beth’s life hung by a thread.

Aimee said: “She is so much better now. It was heartbreaking at the time.

“She hated being in hospital, hooked up to so many different things, and not allowed to see family and friends. It was very hard for our parents too.

“I was just trying to make sure she was alright.”

Aimee said she would not hesitate to go under the needle again for her sibling.

“I would definitely do the same again,” she added.

“We spent three weeks waiting to find out if I was a match.

“I couldn’t imagine what it must be like for people to wait years and years for a matching transplant.

“We are the best of friends and I think what we have been through has made us closer as well.”

* The charity event at The Albion will feature entertainment, a buffet, raffles, auction, tombola and a sponsored head shave.

Little ones are welcome until 7pm, with a bouncy castle, face painting and sweet cart on offer. There is no need to buy tickets in advance but there is a suggested £1 donation on the door.