Marilyn Anyomokwach was diagnosed with liver failure just days after telling her family she had a stitch. They all wished her a happy 31st birthday right before withdrawing her life support.
Anyomokwach had found new happiness with her family following a turbulent battle with mental illness, just before her life was cruelly taken away.
She was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and spiraled downwards after her mother Joyce's sudden death in her teens.
Lately, however, she had been excited about celebrating her birthday with her siblings.
Marilyn (PA Real Life/Collect)
But, she was struck down by a brain hemorrhage on July 15, instead, her family decorated her hospital room with balloons for her birthday knowing that her life support was being withdrawn the following day, on July 16.
Remembering her poignant final moments, when her brothers and sisters gathered around her bed, her sister Tracy said:
“Marilyn looked at peace."
“We stayed in the room with her for a while, said goodbye and kissed her on the forehead. We played her favorite song Halo by Beyonce. She was with her family in her last moments."
It was a hard day for the family.
“Before she was put into a coma, she had been so excited about celebrating her birthday with a family barbecue. She was such a shy person, but when she was with her family, her confidence soared and she was so excited about being with everyone. It was devastating that she did not get to celebrate it," Tracy continued.
“On her birthday, the day before she died, the hospital staff were amazing and allowed us to come in with balloons. My 10-year-old niece put together a playlist of her favorite songs and we told stories and shared memories."
Growing up, Anyomokwach was isolated from the rest of her family by her mother.
When she died suddenly from deep vein thrombosis, the shock had a profound effect.
Living alone and working as a cleaner for Claridge's in London's upmarket Mayfair, it was clear she was struggling.
Soon, her father decided to take care of her full time.
Marilyn and Powell (PA Real Life/Collect)
She was hospitalized for a year in 2011, only to relapse in 2013 and return to residential care for a month.
As her condition stabilized, Anyomokwach once more became the happy, bubbly person her family knew and loved.
“She loved singing along to the radio and adored all those talent shows like The X Factor and The Voice. She would watch them religiously," she said.
“She loved reading and writing and really wanted to become a journalist," Tracy added.
“She started college last year and was doing development and life skills courses. She was learning baking and was really getting her life on track."
“She had three nephews and a niece who she loved so much. Every Friday she would arrange a movie night for them and would buy in snacks."
Marilyn and Powell (PA Real Life/Collect)
“She was such a beautiful and loving soul with an infectious laugh," she recalled.
Anyomokwach, who did not drink, had complained of a stitch-style pain in her side after going to hospital for a routine blood test on Thursday, June 25.
She soon started feeling worse, with a temperature, the shakes and loss of appetite.
Four days later, after a negative test for the virus at a local testing facility at Chessington World of Adventures, when she showed no signs of improvement, Powell took her to St Helier Hospital in nearby Sutton, where blood tests proved inconclusive, but she was admitted with a high temperature and possible viral infection.
Going rapidly downhill, on July 6, Anyomokwach was transferred to the intensive care unit and put into a coma, where blood tests and a CT scan showed, to her loved ones' shock, that she had something wrong with her liver.
“She never drank alcohol, smoked or took recreational drugs. She was really healthy," Tracy said.
The next day, Anyomokwach was transferred to London's King's College Hospital, having been diagnosed with jaundice and liver failure and her family were told she would need a liver transplant.
"But by the Friday of that week her condition had got so bad that she had multiple organ failure. It had gone from her complaining of a stitch to this," she said.
“She was on dialysis for her kidneys and the consultant was optimistic about the chances of finding her a liver. "
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Put on an urgent list, a liver arrived the next day, but it was too small, so the transplant could not proceed.
“My parents saw her on the Monday, but her heart was very weak," said Tracy.
“That evening we prayed for her. Then, on the Tuesday, the consultant phoned to say Marilyn had experienced a brain haemorrhage. She did not really have any brain activity and there was nothing more they could do."
“It was such a shock and so hard to take in. We had felt quite optimistic on the Friday, because of the hope that we would find a liver for her, so it was devastating."
Taking the heartbreaking decision to switch Anyomokwach's life support machine off, her father had asked for a few more days so her family and friends could pray for her.
Sadly, after marking her 31st birthday the day before, on July 16, Anyomokwach's life support machine was switched off at around 3.45pm.
“My mum and dad couldn't bear to be in the room with her, because she looked so unwell and her body was so swollen. They didn't want that to be the last memory of her," she explained.
“My dad did not take it very well. He is a strong Christian and it was a real shock for him, because she had seemed so healthy."
Now hoping to raise $13,000 so they can give her a memorable funeral, the family have launched a GoFundMe page.
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They also want to highlight the importance of donating organs – with the law having recently changed in England so that people have to opt out, rather than in, of organ donation.
“We don't know, but if there were more donors they may have been able to do something for Marilyn," said Tracy.
“She also had a rare blood type – type B – so we want to stress the importance of blood donations and organ donors from O blood group because that is compatible with most blood types."
“Marilyn had the biggest and most pure heart. She always wanted to help people," Tracy said.
“She was really fun – always laughing. She felt like she was shy, but she was always the life and soul of family parties."
Her father Powell is at least pleased that he was able to see Marilyn being truly happy before she died.
“When she came to live with us, we worked very hard to make sure she felt safe and loved and that helped her a great deal. She got on really well with her sisters and really improved," he said.
“She had found happiness, she had support, comfort and life was less of a struggle for her."
Anyomokwach's stepmother, Susan, echoed her husband's feelings that her life was snatched away just when she was at her most content.
“She didn't like trouble, she just loved peace, quiet and joy," she said.
“All of my friends who met her really loved her. Everything was falling into place for her, so it's just desperately sad that it was taken away from her."
The family are awaiting an inquest to determine why Anyomokwach experienced liver failure.
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Meanwhile, experts say it is possible for clozapine – a drug prescribed to her for schizophrenia – to harm the organ in some patients.
“Clozapine is an effective antipsychotic drug, but is associated with serious side effects in some patients. It is largely restricted for use in patients who have not responded to other antipsychotic medications," A spokesperson for the Royal College of Psychiatrists said.
“Most treatment guidelines give no specific recommendations on regular monitoring of liver function tests, although patients on antipsychotics should have regular assessments of their physical health."
Marilyn's sister Tracy (PA Real Life/Collect)
“Approximately half of patients experience elevations in hepatic transaminases (liver enzymes), and around 25 per cent experience an elevation that is two to three times greater than normal."
“Most elevations in liver function tests are transient and asymptomatic and not clinically significant, but there are reported cases of clozapine-induced hepatotoxicity (liver damage)."
To donate toward funeral costs, visit GoFundMe here.