I was 17. I’d just graduated high school, had a kick ass new boyfriend, and was laying my teenage days away waiting for uni offers. Life couldn’t really get any better, I was healthy, happy & just generally loving life. But, so it seems, life had a different plan for me.
Christmas 2008 hit me like a tonne of bricks, and I got that dreadful summer cold we all hate. Except this was no average cold. It turns out I’d been hit with Glandular Fever and the road to recovery was long, and one no one expected.
A few days before Christmas I got pretty sick, I just figured I’d sleep it away, and nothing a bit of cold and flu tablets over the counter from the chemist wouldn’t fix. Boxing Day I was in the emergency department on Oxygen. Eventually I was sent home, and a few days later admitted to a local private hospital as my state had deteriorated and the local GP had no idea how to fix it. To cut a long story short, I was transferred from one hospital to another where I was then put into a medically induced coma, early January 2009. It was the safest way to keep me alive, and diagnose me at the same time, all whilst trying to find a solution. I then went to another hospital in Brisbane where I laid for a few weeks, connected to machines. My family was told I had a 50/50 chance, it was bad. Really, the doctors still had no answers, and were doing their absolute best to keep me alive each day. Mid January, I was transferred from a Childrens Hopsital in Brisbane to the RPA Hospital in Sydney by government Jet. I was connected to a machine called an ECMO Machine, which essentially works as a heart lung bypass machine, and was to give my lungs time to rest. It was connected to my jugular vein, and a large vein in my groin and it would take the blood out, oxygenate it and return it to my body - working as my heart and lungs. Sadly, my lungs were punctured, and eventually they collapsed, leaving a double lung transplant as my only chance of survival.
It was the St Vincents Hopsital in Sydney where my fate would lie, and I was put on the top of the recipient list for Australia and New Zealand. (*Fun fact, depending on what state you’re in will depend on the pool of organs that can be taken*, QLD may be too far from WA, but its close enough to NZ for the organs to be viable*). I waited for 4 weeks, and a set arrived.
As luck would have it, 9 March 2009 was to be my new birth day! I was lucky enough to be given the greatest gift of life, in the form of not one, but two new airbags, MY NEW LUNGS! They arrived in the early hours and as I am told I went through gruelling hours of surgery, and a few more long weeks of recovery until I was eventually taken off life support, and slowly woken to my new life. Although not perfect, my very competent surgeons and doctors, made a difficult decision that day to take those lungs for me. I matched mostly, but they were too big in size. Your right lung has three lobes and the left has two, my new lungs have one big lobe each. This means I have a restricted lung capacity and won’t ever function to full capacity.
All in all, I was in a coma for about 3 months. I woke, and Michael Jackson had passed, Barak Obama was the American President and for all I knew that was just the beginning. Life had changed, and as a not even 18-year-old, this was a massive wake up call for me.
I began my road to recovery, I learned to walk and use my muscles again. I had to gain 25+ kilos to return to my previous weight, and fit my clothes. I spent most of my days on the couch, with not enough energy or muscles to really do anything too great. My friends had gone, but I had my family, my Todd and my new lungs and that was all that mattered.
Today, I am 25. I have been a lawyer for almost a year now, am happily married to my wonderfully supportive husband Todd and we are in the middle of building our dream home. My life is normal. Actually, it’s better than normal, it’s the best, cause I can breathe. If you look at me, you wouldn’t know. & between you and me I think that’s pretty cool. I’m not that “sick” girl in the crowd, or at the shops. I wake most mornings with a deep breathe, thinking how awesome it is that I live with someone else’s organs.
My routine now consists of a bunch of pills (lifesaving might I add), routine 3 monthly hospital check-ups, and living my life to the fullest. Not too bad if you ask me, and a small price to pay to still be living and breathing. If you think about it, the alternate wasn’t that great. Sure, there are some pretty difficult times, and things that only I cope with, and things that I am only telling anyone for the first time writing this blog. Some days pass with no hiccups, others I lay awake all night focussing on each and every breathe gasping in the glory, but also wondering what else life has planned for me. My heart breaks knowing I may not be able to give my wonderful husband that family he deserves, or carry a child of my own, or not live to be the lil old lady in the fruit shop that the young boy helps to her car, but I quickly am woken from those thoughts when I think about how lucky I am to still be alive. I have 7 beautiful nieces and nephews that I have watched grow into wonderful little humans, and I am consider myself the luckiest person alive to have witnessed all of that.
I promise you, a double lung transplant was the farthest expectation for my life that you, or I could possibly imagine. It’s one of those things that you never think will happen to you, or someone you know or love. But you shouldn’t discredit that. Sometimes life has its own plan for you, to try and test you and to see if you can handle it. A new friend just last week read my palm, and my “life line” is strong. Although its criss-crossed with lots of health issues, its strong, and that’s what makes me know that this path that has been paved for me, is the right one.
My life today wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of my donor family. It was the family of my donor who made one of what I would imagine to be the most difficult decisions of their life, but as a result has been one of the greatest, most selfless gift a person could give, an organ donation.
In Australia, SADLY viable organs can only be taken from a small pool of people and those deaths count for a minute percent of the population, and from that even less donate. Each year 1,500 Australians wait for an organ transplant, whether it be heart, lung, livers or kidneys. I know so many people I talk to think they have it covered, they ticked that box when the got their drivers licence 30+ years ago, or they themselves know they want to donate. Well, I am here to tell you that’s just not good enough.
Today, it is your next of kin that decides whether your organs are donated to another human in need. (*fun fact, one donor can save the lives of up to 10 people). This week marks Organ Donation awareness week. It’s here to raise awareness, and encourage all Australian’s to discuss this very sensitive issue with their loved ones. If you have registered your intent on the Organ Register, that’s a great start, but you also need to have the chat with your family. If you feel strongly about it, stress it to them. It is important that they know.
Death isn’t something anyone wants to think about, or discuss with their family but the reality of it is, is that is inevitable. Life can, sadly be taken away from us in an instant, and in the event that it does, wouldn’t you like to know that you’ve saved someone’s life. The beauty of it is, that I am living proof that organ donation works. I am now 8 years post transplant, which is an awesome feat. The quality of life I have is incredible, and I have my donor to thank for that.
I share my story with almost everyone I meet, and I do encourage people to register their intention to donate. In my experience I have found that its not until people have met someone like me that they really consider the topic. I cannot encourage, or advocate the important of organ donation enough. If you do anything after reading this, please – register your intention to donate, and discuss it with your loved ones, be it your mum, dad, husband or wife. They need to know.
Donors are heroes, you could be one too.
#endthewait #donatelife #havethechat #organdonation