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I can do things now that were impossible before

In February 2018, Michelle had a single lung transplant. This is her story about how it changed her life.

Michelle, single lung transplant recipient

For 22 years, I’d been living with pulmonary fibrosis, a form of interstitial lung disease which causes scarring and stiffening of the lungs. I was also living with mild pulmonary hypertension.

When I was first diagnosed, I called the British Lung Foundation helpline. They gave me reassuring advice to help with my condition.

For the five years leading up to my transplant, I needed home oxygen therapy. And I could hardly drive or walk up the stairs without feeling out of breath. I used to run my own party planning business but was forced to stop working.

I used to be so breathless all the time, I was coughing 24/7.

I was placed on the priority list for a lung transplant in January 2017 as my condition had deteriorated so much.

I was determined to keep positive!

Initially, I had two unsuccessful matches. Then I had the call to say there was a compatible lung.

I was picked up by an ambulance and taken to hospital. I felt slightly scared and very emotional. It was a daunting journey and I didn’t know what to expect.

I am one of the famous five

The surgeons at the hospital carried out a record breaking five transplants within a 36-hour period. This included my single lung transplant.

More than 40 medical staff were involved in the non-stop operations that took place from the Sunday afternoon through to the Tuesday morning.

Before the transplant I had asked my mum to squeeze my hand if the operation had been a success. When I was coming round and I felt that squeeze, I was so relieved. I just knew then that life was going to get better.

I couldn’t talk after the transplant as I had tubes inserted down my throat and into my lungs to help my breathing.

I am so blessed to have had the transplant. It has literally given me a new lease of life and allowed me to do so much I couldn’t do for so long.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank my donor for giving me the gift of life. I am so grateful to my consultants, surgeons, nurses and all the staff at the hospital. The transplant team have turned my life around.

Life after the lung transplant

When I left hospital, I felt slightly nervous. This was a place where I felt safe. But I knew I would have to face the big wide world at some point!

When I got back from the hospital and went up the stairs by myself without stopping, my parents and my daughter were in disbelief!

Almost a year after the procedure, I was a picture of health. I gained the energy to do simple, everyday tasks that were impossible before my transplant. I was able to walk without getting breathless and no longer needed oxygen therapy.

A year on from the procedure

Throughout 2019 I went to various events and venues to tell my story. I took part in the British Transplant Games in July 2019 and did a 1.8-mile walk! LoveBrum supported me by giving me funding.

In September 2019, I put on an organ donation awareness charity event within the black and minority ethnic (BME) community to raise funds for the hospital that saved my life.

I was also nominated for the most inspirational person of the year in November 2019 at a regional award ceremony.

My main focus is raising awareness about organ donation, especially within the ethnic minority community.

I also did a little bit of travelling in 2019. I visited London attractions and travelled to Paris by the Eurostar. My plan for the future is to go to places I couldn’t while I was poorly. I’m looking forward to going on a short haul holiday when we can travel again. Probably Morocco!

Shielding during the pandemic

2020 brought the coronavirus pandemic and because of the transplant, I was listed as clinically extremely vulnerable. I was initially told to not leave the house, and to not even go in the garden. I didn’t leave the house for six months. It was a very anxious and scary time.

I slowly gained the confidence to start walking up and down my garden. I then started doing basic workouts, some spring cleaning, and even started growing herbs! All of this kept me going.

Despite the setbacks the pandemic caused, I have continued fundraising and donating to various charities, including the BLF, and raising awareness of organ donation.

I’m also in the process of writing a book about my experiences. And I’ve been given the opportunity to host my own radio show all about organ donation, this will include interviewing people who have had transplants, as well as doctors and nurses.  

This year I hope to continue doing events that raise awareness about organ donation.

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25 March 2021