Love on the Transplant List - Kirstie’s story

Honiton newlywed’s fight for life recorded in compelling television documentary.

Her vivacious, bubbly personality and zest for life masked the severity of an illness that very nearly killed her - just three weeks after her wedding.

The true story of how close Honiton cystic fibrosis sufferer Kirstie Tancock came to death will be screened on BBC Three later this month in a compelling documentary.

The double lung transplant survivor is filmed in the run-up to her wedding and afterwards, when she almost died waiting for donor lungs.

The Midweek Herald has been given an advance copy of the film, Love on the Transplant List, courtesy of Special Edition Films.

“We need a miracle,” the 21-year-old’s husband of less than a month, Stuart, told the camera crew after initial donor lungs were found to be too big and Kirstie’s body started to shut down.

Filmed in and around Honiton, as well as at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and Harefield Hospital in London, the documentary records what could have been a tragic end to a young life.

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Every day three people on the transplant list die waiting for donor organs and former pole dancing instructor Kirstie could have been one of them - if a new set of lungs had not been found in the nick of time. She was just hours away from death and on life support.

The touch-and-go operation, which lasted four-and-a-half hours, was the climax of a desperate battle to save Kirstie from certain death.

Surgeons told the film crew her old lungs were the worst they had seen in a cystic fibrosis sufferer for seven years.

Her new lungs, however, were “top quality”.

Amid the medical drama, a love story is told.

Stuart, 26, explains how Kirstie’s mum, Linda, took him to one side at the beginning of their relationship and spelt out the severity of her illness. The average lifespan of a CF sufferer is just 38, but Stuart was not put off.

In fact, he says, he would rather spend a short time with the woman he loves than no time at all.

“She will do the donor proud - whatever she does,” he told the camera crew.

Kirstie said she was “grateful for her strength, family, surgeons and the donor”.

But she also ponders on her private battle to convince people of how ill she really was. Not everybody recognised it.

There will be no doubting how close she came to death when Love on the Transplant List is screened on November 28 as part of the Born Survivors series.

While Kirstie, now 22, has been given a new lease of life and says she feels like the person she was always supposed to be, there’s an added bonus.

With her new lungs, she now has the breath to give Stuart a “proper kiss”!

l A campaign to support research into gene therapy for cystic fibrosis sufferers is about to get under way in Honiton - with big support from Colin Eaton and team at the Honiton Hearing Centre in New Street.