A WREXHAM woman who was one of Britian’s longest-surviving kidney transplant recipients and was hailed as an inspiration to others, has died at the age of 73.
At the time Julie Jones developed kidney failure in the early 1970s, there were less than a handful of dialysis machines available in North Wales and doctors were faced with life-and-death decisions as to who should qualify for a transplant.
It was only her status as the mother of a young family which gave her a place on the list for the life-saving operation.
Although the first transplant she was given failed, another a few years later was a success and gave her the vitality to compete on a number of occasions in the Transplant Olympics.
Mrs Jones, who died in a nursing home earlier this week, was born in Shrewsbury but moved with her family to Wrexham as a young child.
After attending school in Acton and Grove Park, she began work as a graphics tracer for the National Coal Board at Llay Main Colliery, where she remained for a number of years.
It was there she met her future husband, Brian, and the couple were married in 1957.
When her first kidney transplant failed in 1973, Mrs Jones became very ill and had to spend six months in intensive care.
At one point her lungs collapsed and she later required four corrective operations.
Her second transplant in 1976 was made possible when a perfect match was found with a donor in Holland – a young boy who had been killed in a road accident in Amsterdam.
During the early 1980s Mrs Jones was fit enough to compete on three or four occasions in the Transplant Olympics, running and putting the shot against people who had undergone a range of organ renewals, from hearts to lungs and kidneys.
She later treasured her participant’s medals.
For many years Mrs Jones raised money for kidney research.
In 1993 she worked with Wrexham Lions Club on her Gift of Life campaign, which raised £30,000 to help equip the new diabetes unit at Wrexham Maelor Hospital with blood testing equipment, and was later invited to perform its official opening.
Mrs Jones remained very active in charitable work until she became ill five years ago and needed to be cared for in a nursing home.
Despite her other health problems, her transplanted kidney continued to function perfectly for the rest of her life.
She and her husband, who is well known as the owner of Brian Jones Garage Services in Queensway, Wrexham, have three sons. Ian, who runs an international satellite communications company, Pete, a 747 pilot for British Airwways, and Michael, who is a professor of astronomy at Oxford University.
Mrs Jones also leaves three grandsons and a grand-daughter.
Her son Ian said of her: “She was a very brave and remarkable lady who was well-known for her strength of character.
“She was well aware that she owed her life to medical science which drove her to want to fundraise.”
“She was always grateful to Professor Robert Sells, of the Royal Liverpool Hospital, the surgeon who performed the operations and saved her life.”
Sister Julie Williams, Transplant Specialist Nurse at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, said: “Mrs Jones was a lovely lady who attended the clinic quite regularly, often with her husband and also her brother, and we would like to send our condolences to them and to the rest of her family.
“Her transplant gave her a new lease of life, and her story is an inspiration to other patients who are facing the prospect of similar treatment.”
Mrs Jones’ funeral will be held at St Giles’ Church, Wrexham at 11am on Wednesday, May 12, followed by interment at Wrexham Crematorium.