Heart transplant recipient Margi Inskeep was stubborn but sweet, her grieving sister says.

Inskeep was born with congenital heart disease and was 6 when she was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition which makes the heart less effective at pumping blood.

She was told without a transplant, she was unlikely to live to 25. She suffered heart failure at 19 and, nine years ago, at 21, she received the transplant she needed.

She died on January 14 at home in Rotorua, less than a month before her 30th birthday.

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Lillian Burgess has fond memories of playing at the lakes with her younger sister Margi as a child.

"I used to boss her around as kids until one day she said 'no'," Burgess said.

"She was stubborn, strong-willed, argumentative, caring, sweet. She always had time for everyone else. She was very loyal to her friends."

Margi (left) with her sister Lillian in 2010.
Margi (left) with her sister Lillian in 2010.

Burgess said her sister was a wonderful aunt, and her nieces and nephews inspired her to pursue early childhood education.

"My kids absolutely adored her. She loved them to pieces," Burgess said.

"She started studying early childhood education after I had my first child."

Inskeep had to drop out of the course due to sickness in her third year, but always wanted to return and finish her studies, Burgess said.

Margi recieved a Dillon Scholarship to study at Waiariki in 2007.
Margi recieved a Dillon Scholarship to study at Waiariki in 2007.

Burgess said her sister wanted to encourage people to become organ donors.

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"She wanted to raise awareness about transplants and the need for organ donors in New Zealand," she said.

"New Zealand has got one of the lowest rates in the developed world for organ donation. That's something she always wanted to do: To encourage more people to become donors because you can save so many lives."

Burgess said the family didn't want Inskeep's death to put off anyone considering a transplant.

"She wanted to encourage people to take that chance because it's better than the alternative ... She got another nine years."

She said her sister loved her friends and socialising with them as well as spending time with her nieces and nephews.

"She used to love spending time with my children and did arts and crafts with them all the time," Burgess said.

"She loved them very much. She would have loved to watch them grow."

Burgess said her younger sister was doing well just before Christmas but developed a cold which turned into bronchitis.

"She never gave up the fight. She fought right to the end."

The family is asking for donations to be made to the Transplant Unit in Greenlane Hospital in lieu of flowers.

They are planning a celebration of Inskeep's life tomorrow.