Emmerdale: Sarah needs a heart transplant – seven times Debbie’s daughter fought the odds

Cancer, fires, quad bike crashes - can the cursed teen survive yet another crisis?

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Tragedy has truck Emmerdale’s Sarah Sugden yet again with the news she is dire need of a heart transplant following her shock diagnosis of heart failure caused by side effects of chemotherapy for cancer.

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That sentence alone gives you a small insight into the traumatic young life of Debbie Dingle’s daughter who appears to be cursed. And while the transplant bombshell in tonight’s episode (Thursday 14 June) means the family must brace themselves for the the girl to endure another brave battle, it’s not the first time Sarah has had to fight for her life.

Throughout her 13 years, Sarah has proved she’s made of sturdy stuff despite constant health crises and brushes with death. So while we’re all keeping our fingers crossed she pulls through and gets a healthy new heart, a brief recap of her drama-packed life shows she’s come up against some hefty odds before – and survived…

She nearly died at birth
Born in a barn to a terrified teenage mother in 2005 who had kept her shameful pregnancy a secret, Sarah nearly came a cropper as soon as she came into the world as Debbie didn’t have time to check herself into a private maternity suite with gas and air on tap. Struggling to breathe and turning blue when she was born, Deb’s mate Daz Eden went for help and Emily Kirk (Paddy’s ex, who briefly looked after her when Debbie couldn’t cope) managed to get her warm and bring her back to life. But there were more struggles ahead…

She had a rare genetic disease at the age of six
When little Sarah started bruising easily Debbie thought someone was abusing her daughter, but months of tests and worry revealed she had developed a condition called Fanconi anaemia – a rare and serious genetic illness causing bone marrow failure that Deb and Sarah’s dad Andy Sugden were told could lead to cancer. The diagnosis was dire and doctors urged a bone marrow transplant, only none of the family were a match. There was only one thing for it…

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She needed a bone marrow transplant from a saviour sibling who didn’t exist
Debbie and Andy were never really a proper couple, with Sarah the result of an ill-advised fumble some years before, but to save their little girl they had to do the deed again to produce a ‘saviour sibling’ and pray their bone marrow would be a match. It was a spectacularly awkward situation but luckily resulted in little Jack coming along in 2012 (born during Emmerdale’s 40th anniversary live episode and named after the show’s original patriarch Jack Sugden) and saved his sister before leukaemia could take hold.

She was trapped in a house fire
Sarah’s new lease of life was nearly snatched away thanks to the antics of a drunk babysitter. Car crash Kerry Wyatt was dating Andy, but playing stepmum to Sarah and Jack ended in disaster when the gobby geordie got bladdered and set fire to the house while she was in charge. Sarah – by this time probably feeling pretty indestructible – managed to get out and raise the alarm, laughing in the face of death once more.

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She was one of Emma Barton’s early victims 
Evil Emma Barton’s journey to pushing her ex-husband onto the Hotten bypass (causing the most dangerous rush hour in soap history) was rooted in an obsessively protective streak over her family, which caused her to slowly start losing the plot a few years before the fateful pile-up – and Sarah was in the firing line. Disgusted at Debbie’s betrayal of her son Pete by bedding her other son Ross, nurse Emma spied an opportunity for spite when Ms Dingle demanded tests on her daughter for a suspicious cough fearing it was a reoccurrence of cancer. Tampering with the results to cruelly let Debbie think the worst, Emma’s antics were foiled when doctors did another round of tests that showed Sarah was still in remission.

She needed pioneering treatment for throat cancer
Even a brief spell living in France couldn’t break Sarah’s endless cycle of bad luck and last year she returned to the village having been diagnosed with throat cancer. Debbie had stolen money and gone on the run to pay for pricey treatment only available in Prague, and nearly ended up in prison. Thankfully granny Faith chaperoned the youngster abroad and she responded well to the treatment. It was all going pretty swimmingly until…

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She fell off a quad bike and was knocked unconscious
A few months after facing up to cancer Sarah was thrown off a quad bike during what was meant to be a fun day out with her mum’s new beau Tom Waterhouse – later revealed to be bad boy Joe Tate with a fake identity. Whoever thought putting the unluckiest child in soap on one of those things needs their head read, as the girl crashed and was knocked out cold. But she lived to tell the tale – so don’t underestimate the incredible survival instinct of Sarah Sugden as she awaits another life-saving operation…

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