A YOUNG woman who died after a failed heart transplant left behind a letter for her family – urging them to carry on her fundraising efforts.
Tragic Sheree Bell left the message with strict instructions that it should only be opened in the event of her death.
The 22-year-old from Edinburgh, who was born with a heart defect, raised thousands of pounds for the British Heart Foundation.
Sheree with boyfriend Paul Johnson who she entrusted her letters to
She finally received a heart transplant on June 22 but died two days later from complications following the surgery.
Her devastated family discovered that Sheree wrote the letters months ago and left them in the care of her partner of two and a half years, Paul Johnson.
In the letters she instructed her family that in the event of her death they should continue to raise funds for the British Heart Foundation and encourage others to sign up to the organ donor register.
Her mother, June McLeod said today that she would never be able to overcome the death of her daughter who she described as a “smiling angel”.
Sheree was described as a “smiling angel” because of her infectious grin
June said that Sheree always was thinking of other people, even through her illness.
“She was an inspiration,” she said. “Through everything she kept her smile.”
“I never thought in my wildest nightmares that his would be the outcome.
She added: “It never entered my head. But it obviously did with Sheree as she left letters which made it clear she wanted her fundraising to carry on.”
Sheree was born with Noonan Syndrome, a rare condition which left her with an abnormal heart valve.
In 2009, cardiologists discovered that her faulty heart was leaking large volumes of blood into her spleen and liver.
She was forced to give up her job at a British Gas call centre in early 2011 as her condition gradually deteriorated. By October she relied on a wheelchair in order to get around.
She died having prepared everything to the last detail, even her coffin in her favourite pink
After being told that she would require a heart transplant in order to save her life, she received a call on June 22 to inform her that a match had become available.
She was immediately transferred to the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank for the complicated and lengthy operation.
June said: “We were nervous and upset but she was comforting me.
“Because we didn’t think she was on the emergency list we weren’t prepared.
“She was saying ‘it’s fine, this is what we’re waiting on.’
“Sheree said ‘I’m scared, mum’ but she coped with it because that was her.
“She said ‘I know I’m doing the right thing’.”
Although the new heart was transplanted, it did not beat as it ought to have done and surgeons also battled with internal bleeding.
Despite brave efforts by the doctors to save Sheree’s life, Sheree died on June 24 after it was apparent that recovery would be impossible and her mother agreed to turn off the life support machine.
“They worked tirelessly on her,” June added.
“At first they thought it was fine but then they couldn’t get the bleeding to stop.
“It’s something I’ll never get over.”
As well as asking that her fundraising carry on, Sheree also left instructions for her own funeral which took place on Monday.
The 400 people who crammed into Mortonhall Crematorium dressed in bright colours to reflect her lively personality and she was cremated in a pink coffin.
A collection at the service for the British Heart Foundation raised £900.
Her close family and friends will now focus on fulfilling her last wish.
Despite her health setbacks, Sheree managed to raise £3400 at a charity event in The Ritz, Edinburgh last November and used her Facebook to inspire others to sign up to the organ donor register.
They will take part in a sponsored run on Sunday and a 10k event in Holyrood Park on October 21, organised by her best friend Jen Bruce.
Sheree’s brother, Steven Bell, said his sister was “perfect”.
He said: “She was the happiest person I ever met.
“No matter what the situation she would always find the good in it.
“She knew she was going in for a heart transplant and that there was a chance she was never going to make it.
“But she still wanted everyone to know about it.
“An astounding number of people I know signed up to the organ donor register because of her.
“Everybody takes life for granted but she didn’t. She made time for everybody.
“People she met once turned up to the funeral. No-one will forget her.”