Organ donor changed my life, says Glenboig woman

Kirsty Geddes
Kirsty Geddes

Remembrance Day will always have a special place in Kirsty Geddes’s heart – for it was the day she got the call that would save her life.

Brave Kirsty, right, finally got a double lung transplant in November 2009 after eight long months of painful waiting.

The 28-year-old from Glenboig was diagnosed with the lung disease cystic fibrosis when she was just nine months old. Despite living with the degenerative condition, her parents, Alexander and Annette encouraged Kirsty to live as normal a life as possible.

But during her teens, Kirsty started to pick up more and more infections which wreaked havoc on her lungs with regular hospital stays and high strength antibiotics.

At 19 she had to give up work as a beauty therapist and by 25 her lung function was reduced to just 23 percent of what is normal. Kirsty had to spend 24 hours each day hooked up to oxygen and she was constantly exhausted.

After her lungs collapsed three times doctors told Kirsty there was nothing more they could do and a double lung transplant would be the only way to save her life.

Kirsty said: “With cystic fibrosis (CF), you are always aware that a lung transplant may become your only option. Although it is a very big decision to make, I was always going to take the chance if I ever got to that stage.

“CF was taking over my life – something I said I would never let happen. I could only hope the call would come to say suitable lungs would be found.”

Lung transplants are carried out at a centre of excellence in Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital so Kirsty was assessed by doctors there to make sure she was well enough for a transplant. Kirsty was placed on the waiting list for a double lung transplant in March 2009 and after that, all she and her family could do was to wait.

She said: “I wasn’t scared for myself but I was terrified for my family, my boyfriend and friends who would be left behind to deal with it.

“I still tried to live my life as normally as possible and in June 2009 I went to Fort William with my boyfriend. While there I got a call to say that lungs had become available and I had to get to Newcastle. A helicopter was scrambled to get me to the airport and a private jet was arranged to take me to Newcastle.

“That really took my mind off it as all I could think about was the fact I was in a helicopter. Unfortunately when I got to the hospital they found the lungs weren’t suitable. To be honest I didn’t think it was my time, I somehow knew.”

However, in November 2009, the day after her 26th birthday - Kirsty got the call which was to save her life.

She said: “It was the best birthday present I could ever have wished for. “This time I had a feeling that this was it, I knew it was different.”

Now Kirsty is living her life to the fullest. She said, “The last few years have been a miracle. I’ve done a lot of things I dreamed of doing. Only a few months ago I walked to the top of Ben Nevis, a feat I would never have thought possible. I thanked my donor with every step. 

“I can’t stress enough how grateful I am to my donor and their family.

“After reading this I urge you to let your family know that you would like to be an organ donor and go on to transform and save lives if the worst happens.

“No one likes to think about dying but it happens to everyone at some point. Don’t let your family have to make the decision at a hard time. Let them know what your wishes are and join the NHS Organ Donor Register. Leave a lasting legacy – help others after you die.”

KEY FACTS

There are currently more than two million Scots on the NHS Organ Donor Register – over 41 per cent of the population which is the highest in the UK.

In 2011/12 there were 346 transplants in Scotland.

The majority of people on the transplant list are waiting on kidney transplants – 514 people.

In 2011/12 the most common organ transplant for Scottish residents was a kidney transplant followed by liver, heart and lungs.

One donor can save up to seven lives - organs that can be transplanted are; kidneys, heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, small bowel.

Tissue can also be transplanted including eyes, heart valves, bone, skin and connective tissue.