Tribute for inspirational transplant patient Sammi Sparke

Sammi Sparke - who had a double lung and kidney transplant - pictured earlier this year.

Sammi Sparke - who had a double lung and kidney transplant - pictured earlier this year. Photography was her passion. - Credit: Family

Talented Cambridgeshire photographer Sammi Sparke - who had a double lung and kidney transplant - has sadly passed away. 

The talented 42-year-old, described as a “precious shining star” by her loved ones, fiercely faced each day with passion and determination despite her lifelong battle with ill health. 

Sammi passed away peacefully at Papworth Hospital on March 14 after being admitted with a chest infection. 

She leaves behind her husband Oliver and parents Jackie and Brian, from Eaton Ford, in St Neots, who through their heartbreak, are encouraging people to donate to the Royal Papworth Charity’s heart and lung research. 

Brian and Jackie said: “I think Sammi would like to be remembered as the exceptionally talented photographer she was and we have many testaments to this.  

“Sammi’s story was an inspiration to many and she was instrumental in encouraging many to join the organ donor register.  

“To us, her family, she was a precious shining star. She was kind, funny, intuitive and determined to live life to the full.  

Sammi Sparke - who had a double lung and kidney transplant - pictured aged four.

Sammi Sparke - who had a double lung and kidney transplant - pictured aged four. - Credit: Family

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“Despite being born with cystic fibrosis, post-transplant Sammi was able to travel the world, get married and fulfil most of her dreams.  

“Sammi had a deeply passionate nature that showed great compassion for people and animals, she would find great comfort to know that others will benefit from any donations in her name.” 

Sammi was well-known throughout the county due to her photography business Sammi Sparke Family Photographer - where she would make clients’ dreams come to life through the lens. 

But it was in 2002 that Sammi first came into the spotlight when she underwent a double lung transplant – saving her life – and leading to the most extraordinary adventures for the next 18 and so years. 

In her own words, and with the permission of Sammi’s family, we share part of her incredible life story that she wrote earlier this year. 

“On the August 12 2002 I was the sickest I’ve ever been in my life – that was the night I got moved to the high dependency unit at Papworth Hospital, my lungs were failing and I was put on a machine to help me breathe,” Sammi wrote. 

“With hope fading in the faces I saw around me I was still not done clinging to life. I had heard on the TV about the annual Perseids meteor shower being visible and I asked my mum to go out and wish on a shooting star for me.” 

The following day, Sammi was told that lungs had finally become available for her and she underwent a nine-hour double lung transplant operation. 

She added: “My recovery was slow but sure. I’d been given the chance and that was all I needed. I was inspired by the person I owed my life to, and while I recovered I did all I could to raise awareness of organ donation, locally in Cambridgeshire and nationally.” 

Determined to live life to the full, Sammi went on to finish her Open University studies in History of Art, graduate with a 1st class BA honours degree in Photography from Lancashire University and travel the world. 

In 2005, Sammi underwent her second transplant, and it was her dad Brian who gave her one of his kidneys. 

She wrote: “My dad gave me one of his kidneys under the strict proviso I ensure it is looked after with the odd beer. 

“At the end of 2005 I was finally fit enough, in earnest, to make the long-awaited dream of travelling the world come true.” 

In 2018, when Sammi got married to her partner, Oliver, she said that although she had “genuinely felt whole without another person to lean on”, Oliver’s strength was special and he was “happiness in a nutshell”. 

“If I can give hope to anyone waiting or encouragement to anyone thinking of being signing the organ donor register, I’ve done something hugely valuable,” Sammi added. 

“There’s an anonymous quote, often used in Buddhist teaching and it’s something I like to remind myself of; ‘Don’t start your day with the broken pieces of yesterday. Every day is a fresh start. Each day is a new beginning. Every morning we wake up is the first day of the rest of our life.” 

To find out more about organ donation visit: https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/ 

To donate in Sammi’s memory visit: https://royalpapworthcharity.com/memory-wall?page=sammi-sparke 

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