Woman praises tragic Hartlepool sister's bravery to encourage organ donation

A woman whose big sister tragically died four years after she saved her life through a bone marrow transplant is speaking out for the first time to support organ donation.

Wednesday, 20th October 2021, 4:50 pm

Christine Swift, originally from Hartlepool, has opened up about the brave sacrifice Elaine made when they were children before she later died after taking an overdose.

Now a thriving 29-year-old, Christine wants to shine a light on organ donation and mental health issues as the 20th anniversary of Elaine’s death approaches.

Elaine was 11 when medics discovered she was a perfect match for Christine, who had leukaemia, at odds of 400,000-1 and was able to help cure her six-year-old sister .

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The late Elaine Swift, left, with younger sister Christine as children.

But in the aftermath Elaine was taunted by other children amid publicity over her donation.

Christine, who now lives in Edinburgh, said: "Elaine did the most wonderful thing. She saved my life.

"I was very sick as a child and had no real childhood but now I am a healthy, happy adult.

"I travel all over the world on my own. I have a great life, and that's all down to her and her gift.

The late Elaine Swift.

"There were kids at Elaine's school who were jealous and didn't like the fact she was getting so much attention and praise.

"She was clever and well behaved and I don't think that helped either.

"She would come home from school in floods of tears.”

Aged 15, Elaine was rushed to hospital after taking an overdose and later died.

Christine Swift has spoken publicly for the first time about her sister's bravery to shine a light on organ donation and mental health issues.

Christine, who works for Hilton Hotels, added: "I was picked up from school and taken to Elaine's bedside. She looked me in the eyes and she smiled at me.

"I held her hand then had to leave because she was surrounded by medics.

"I was so young I didn't grasp the seriousness of what had happened. I just thought she was poorly like I had been.

"The last time she spoke to me she said: 'I am sorry, I am sorry. I love you, I love you.'

Elaine, far left, and sister Christine, second right, with parents Fiona and Ben.

"I tried my best to hold her but the machines were getting in the way and I was scared.

"It was so difficult to see the person who'd saved my life, lose her own. I couldn't come to terms with it."

Elaine died on November 27, 2001, just three days after Christine's tenth birthday.

At her Hartlepool inquest, coroner Malcolm Donnelly said Elaine's death was "tragic" and recorded a verdict of accidental death as he could not be sure that she intended to die.

He told the family: "Elaine touched a lot of lives. If it wasn't for Elaine, your other daughter Christine would not be here today."

Christine said she has turned a corner after eight years of counselling following her own depression.

She added: "Elaine missed out on so much, including getting to know her three nieces and six nephews, the children of our elder sisters.

"But I take comfort from knowing she lives on in me and the memories of all who knew her.

“Despite what happened, I know she never regretted her gift, and I am certain she'd want to encourage others to become donors as well."

Details about the organ donor register are available at www.organdonation.nhs.uk/ or from 0300 123 23 23.

The Samaritans can be contacted on for free on 116 123.

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