Now Kirstie’s fitter than her mum
Double lung transplant survivor, 22, talks about her fight for life.
Three months ago Honiton woman Kirstie Tancock was fighting for her life in hospital and had given up hope.
The newlywed 21-year-old cystic fibrosis sufferer desperately needed a double lung transplant and was close to death.
Thanks to an organ donor, she was brought back from the brink and says her life has now “completely changed”.
Not only has she lived to see her 22nd birthday, she is enjoying two hour workouts in a gym, long walks with her pet dog, Kia, and the best possible start to married life with husband, Stuart, 26.
“I had more chance of winning the lottery than undergoing a successful lung transplant,” she said.
“My life expectancy was then, at the age of 21.
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“There is no definite sell-by date for transplant organs - some last five years and some 10 years. It could be 30 years, with the advancement in drugs. But, for me, even another five years of high quality life makes it all worthwhile.”
Kirstie is now an ambassador for charity Live Life Then Give Life and is to be featured in a BBC3 Born Survivors documentary entitled Love on the Transplant List. She has also been nominated for Cosmopolitan magazine’s Love Story of the Year award.
It is all a world away from the frantic fight to save her life.
She was so poorly before the transplant, she was airlifted to Harefield Hospital in London where she was subjected to invasive treatment and heavily sedated.
“I told them to switch everything off,” she said.
“I was in a lot of pain and under stress.
“I couldn’t do anything, because I was pinned to the bed by tubes and wires.”
Throughout her ordeal, she was supported by Stuart and her mum, Linda Freeman. It was Linda who told Kirstie she had undergone a double lung transplant when she was woken up.
“I was still very sick and completely disorientated and didn’t know much of what was going on,” Kirstie said. “I was very distressed and confused and, when my mum told me, I didn’t believe her. I initially had feelings of guilt and was disappointed that I was still alive. I thought the hospital had wasted these perfectly good lungs on someone who was going to die.”
Kirstie’s old lungs were the worst surgeons had seen in more than six years, she says.
“One was dead and only a quarter of the other was working, and that was filled with blood and puss. I had zero per cent lung function.”
Kirstie is one of just two patients from the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital’s cystic fibrosis unit to receive a lung transplant.
She believes education is the key to encouraging more people to become organ donors.
“I want everyone to make the choice, but I also want it to be an informed choice - an educated decision,” she said.
After staring death in the face and surviving, Kirstie is making the most of every minute of her life.
She says: “Now I’m fitter than my mum. This feels like who I was always supposed to be.”
For more information about Live Life Then Give Life visit http://www.lltgl.org.uk/