Donor gave me the gift of life for Christmas
THIS was a Christmas 22-year-old Siobhan Morris was never certain she would be able to celebrate. But a simple phone call just six months ago changed the course of her life forever – two suitable lungs were finally available for immediate transplant.
The news came not a day too soon. The Highgate artist was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at just 11 months old and an early infection left her with permanent lung damage – making her extremely vulnerable to constant, severe chest infections. By the age of 17, it became clear a transplant would be her only hope.
She said: “I had also had Cystic Fibrosis-related diabetes, Cystic Fibrosis arthritis which at one point became a terrible infection in my elbow joint and bone, blocked and infected salivary glands and a period of impaired balance caused by one of the antibiotics which made me feel seasick for about two months.
“One chest infection led to septicemia and kidney failure and there was a time when I and my family really, really believed I was dying.”
On the NHS donor list since 2008, her health was fast deteriorating and it became clear she desperately needed a transplant.
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After three false alarms – one on the eve of her grandmother’s funeral on June 7, the call finally came. Two lungs were waiting for her at the hospital and an ambulance was on its way.
Ms Morris added: “I saw the call from ‘unknown number’ flashing on my phone and my heart stopped. The voice calmly told me they had a potential pair of lungs for me.
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“My boyfriend was in Belgium so he tried to keep me calm over the phone by googling Mexico – a place we always said we wanted to go if I ever got a transplant – and telling me all about it.
“I don’t think it felt real until I had to leave my parents at the theatre doors. I didn’t want to say goodbye but we told each other we loved each other. I woke up 36 hours later with new lungs.”
Although she is still recovering from a series of small infections as her body adapts to her new lungs, Ms Morris will always be grateful to the person who gave her a second chance.
She said: “It’s so generous of that person to sign the register and so, so brave of their family to follow through with donating the organs at such a tragic time.
“I will always be thankful, not only for me but for my family. It has given them another chance as well as me. I think they will be able to enjoy Christmas properly for the first time in a long time.”
While waiting on the donor list, Siobhan was being admitted to hospital for two weeks every two months and yet she managed to achieve a distinction in an art foundation course and won a Success In The Face Of Adversity Award, presented by TV personality Esther Rantzen.
For the first time this year, Ms Morris has been able to sell her own creations at Christmas markets knowing her new, healthy pair of lungs are ready to fight off any infections that come along.
She said: “I had never enjoyed walking because it made me so out of breath and tired. But now I was discovering how free it could feel to walk around the park and have a picnic or visit the canal near the hospital and see dozens of ducklings and other wildlife.
“Even walking to our local Highgate shops was exciting and I became a regular at a tea shop I never knew existed because I’d always just driven past it.”
There are more than 10,000 people in need of an organ transplant and 1,000 of those will die this year. Siobhan is now working with charity Live Life Then Give Life to urge people to sign the organ donation register online at www.lltgl.org.uk or by calling 0300 1232323.