Shock death of well-known Doncaster mum, aged 43, prompts call for organ donors

There are more than 100 people on the organ transplant waiting list – but Catherine Turner had never discussed the issue with her mum.

Friday, 7th June 2019, 13:31 pm
Updated Monday, 17th June 2019, 08:44 am

But when tragedy struck, her mum knew exactly what her daughter would have wanted.

It was a bright Saturday and Doncaster mum Anne Rowsell had been looking forward to celebrating daughter Catherine Turner’s birthday with her.

Anne Rowsell with a picture of her daughter Catherine who died in April. Picture Scott Merrylees

The pair of animal lovers had plans in place to meet up at the Cat Cafe in Sheffield, a venue for both people and felines alike, on the Monday.

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Anne’s cat Sanchez had recently died and she had just buried her pet when her phone rang – with devastating news.

Catherine was ill. Her car had been seen driving slowly along Westgate, Tickhill, past the Travellers Rest pub.

Another motorist had noticed something was wrong. He had stopped his own car, got out, and opened Catherine’s door through her open window, and stopped her vehicle too.

He had got her out of the car and worried staff at the Travellers Rest had come out with a defibrillator, fearing she had suffered a heart attack at the wheel.

The emergency services had been called and worried Anne, from Austerfield, rushed to the scene, with husband Peter.

When she arrived, her daughter was lying on the pavement, unconscious. An ambulance and paramedics were already there.

The paramedics tried to revive Catherine in the ambulance on the way to Doncaster Royal Infirmary.

Anne, Peter, Catherine’s brother and sisters and her daughter and fiancee made their own way to the hospital, and were taken to a family room.

When the doctors came to speak to them, it was the worst, most devastating news they could have had.

Anne said: “They fetched us to come and see her, but she never regained consciousness. She had suffered an aneurysm and a heart attack. Her scan showed a massive bleed on the brain. She had been admitted on the Saturday. But she was pronounced dead on the Sunday.

“Monday would have been her 44th birthday.

“She had said she had headaches and sickness a few days before, but she suffered from migraines, she she didn’t think this was unusual.

“What happened came right out of the blue.”

Knowing that her daughter was dead, Anne made a tough decision – she asked the doctors if her organs could be donated.

Although it had not been something she had talked about with Catherine, Anne discussed the issue with the rest of the family in the hospital.

Catherine was well-known in Tickhill – she ran her own printing business there, out of a shed behind her house, and was known locally as the print lady.

She loved animals had had hoped to open a cats’ home when she retired. She was concerned about the environment and issues like use of plastic.

Anne said: “Catherine was always keen on saving the world, the environment, and helping people. It was in no doubt what she would have wanted, which was to donate her organs so other people could live.

“When she died, they gave us a chance to absorb what had happened, and told us what the procedure would be. Then they took her back up to the operating theatre and removed her organs. They brought her back to us, and made her up with make up to make her look pretty. She was a stunning girl.”

Since Catherine died, her family has been told of the people who she has helped.

One of her kidneys went to a 50-year-old man who had been on the transplant waiting list for two years.

Her other kidney went to a women in her 40s, who had also been on the waiting list for two years.

And her lung was used in a life-saving operation for someone who had been seriously injured in an accident.

“It is three lives that have potentially been saved,” said Anne. “It helps us to realise that there have been others who have suffered, and that it was not just us who were in grief. I’m very proud of Catherine.

“The operation did not make a mess of her body – it was done tastefully and with respect.

“And I cannot speak highly enough about the critical care unit, and the care they gave both to us and to Catherine.

“Catherine was a lovely girl. She was always full of joy. She went through some tough times, but she was a fighter.”

More than 100 on waiting list

More than 100 people in South Yorkshire are currently on a waiting list for a transplant organ, according to NHS bosses.

The most recent figures from NHS Blood and Transplant, for March 2019 reveal a total of 109 patients waiting for an organ in total.

Nationally the figure for the number of dead donors, rather than living donors, is down on the previous financial year year. The number between April 1 and June 1 this year is 263, compared to 301 in the same period in 2018.

Hospital bosses in Doncaster are urging people to make sure their relatives know their wishes on organ donation.

Sewa Singh, medical director at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals, said: “On behalf of the Trust I’d like to offer our sincere condolences to Catherine’s family. Choosing to donate your organs is a decision that could transform and save lives.

“If you are on the register already, we urge you to let your friends and relatives know as their support is needed for your donation to go ahead.

“Keeping them in the loop about your decision makes it easier for them to say yes at a difficult time. They can also make sure any needs you have in line with your faith or beliefs are taken into consideration.”