Lancashire mum Natalie Kerr is celebrating five years since her lifesaving double lung transplant.
Aasma Day talks to her about reaching the milestone and the precious extra memories the transplant has given her.
Listening to the words falling from her consultant’s lips, Natalie Kerr felt an overwhelming sense of despair and as if her world was coming to an end.
The mum-of-two had been experiencing breathlessness since her son Brandon was born and after initially dismissing it as juggling life as a mum and a nurse, her condition deteriorated and when she gave birth to her daughter Isabelle, she could barely breath during labour.
Natalie, who lives in Adlington, near Chorley, was diagnosed with a condition called pulmonary hypertension which had caused damage to her heart and lungs.
Natalie was put on oxygen and had to have a stairlift fitted at home but continued to deteriorate and, in 2011, she was listed for a transplant as that was her only hope of staying alive.
Natalie recalls: “When I went for my transplant consultation, the doctor told me: ‘A transplant is not a cure, but it will buy you more time.’
“He then told me only 50 per cent of people who have the transplant make it to five years. I remember feeling sick to the stomach when I heard his words. But I was so poorly, I knew I had no choice but to go through with the double lung transplant as it was my only hope.
“All I wanted was to be a mum and be around to watch my children grow up.”
Natalie had to go through the anguish of writing a will and even planning her own funeral in preparation for the worst.
Natalie, now 35, remembers friends and family crying at her 30th birthday as they feared it might be the last one she would celebrate.
Only months later, Natalie received the call telling her a new pair of lungs had been found for her. Straight after the eight hour surgery, Natalie noticed the difference and could breathe again.
And since then, she has been living life to the full and this week, she will be celebrating the five-year anniversary of her transplant.
Natalie, says: “To have got to five years after my transplant and to be feeling so well is wonderful.
“I have had an extra five years of life with my children and an extra five years of memories. I have done so much over the past five years and have tried to squeeze in as much as I can to make the most of every day.
“When I had my transplant, all I wanted was to see my children grow up. I have had five lots of extra birthdays and Christmases. We have been on holiday to Florida and to Spain and have had lots of day trips to places like the beach and have enjoyed quality time together.
“I have seen Brandon finish primary school and start secondary school and I have seen Isabelle start school, which I once feared I would never see.
“I have taken part in the British Transplant Games where I won a silver medal for archery. I have also raised awareness of the importance of organ donation and done talks at universities and hospitals.
All Natalie knows about the donor of her new lungs is that she was a woman in her fifties but she is immensely grateful to her and her family for giving her extra time with her children.
Natalie is so overjoyed at reaching the five-year milestone, she is holding a fundraising party this Friday to raise funds for Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester, where her life was saved.
Natalie explains: “I’m extremely lucky to be here and to have had five extra amazing years with my children.
“To show my gratitude, I’m marking the anniversary with a party on February 17 at San Marco restaurant in Blackrod and I will be using the party as a charity night to raise money for Wythenshawe Hospital.
“On the night, I will also be releasing balloons in honour of my donor as I can’t thank her enough for me being here today. I feel so happy to have reached five years after transplant and I wish I could go back in that room when the doctor was telling me about transplants and tell the terrified version of myself that I’d be all right and still be here in five years time.”
l To join the Organ Donor Register, visit: https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk