The Lancashire Evening Post is running its “Lancashire: Giving the gift of life” campaign to urge more people to become organ donors. Today, AASMA DAY talks to a Lancashire man who was only given six months to live - but is now celebrating two years since a double lung transplant.
TIME is precious as Kieran Miller knows only too well.
When you hear the stark words that you only have six months left to live, every moment is a bonus and Kieran has already had an extra 18 months after undergoing a double lung transplant two years ago.
Kieran, 27, who lives on Dalby Close, Ribbleton, Preston, has cystic fibrosis, a genetic condition in which the lungs and digestive system become clogged with thick sticky mucus.
He was diagnosed at the age of three after he kept getting ill with chest infections and diarrhoea and his mum Anne kept taking him to the doctors but was told it was just childhood diarrhoea.
Kieran says: “I was only diagnosed with cystic fibrosis after I started going to nursery. One of the nursery staff had a relative with cystic fibrosis and recognised the signs and asked my mum if I had been tested for it.”
Growing up, Kieran knew nothing different so coped with his cystic fibrosis quite well and took medication to manage the condition.
However, he remembers there were a lot of things he couldn’t do or had to take precautions doing as too much exertion meant he struggled to breathe.
Kieran remembers: “When I was younger, I wasn’t allowed to go on away trips with school and I was in hospital quite a lot with chest infections and had to have IV antibiotics.
“At school, I wanted to play sports and loved football, but I could not really join in properly or be part of a team because of my illness.
“I could not run around like normal children. I loved playing out but I had to be really careful.
“I learned to ride a bike, but I could not go very far on it.
“Anything too exertive would lead to a coughing fit and not being able to breathe.”
As time went on, Kieran’s condition deteriorated. He was put on steroids as his airways kept collapsing.
However, a side effect of these was weakening of the bones and Kieran suffered hairline fractures of his bones and now has osteoporis in his back. For a while, he had to wear a back brace.
Things carried on deteriorating for Kieran and in 2013, he reached a real low point where he was constantly in and out of hospital.
Kieran explains: “I would have about two weeks at home followed by around two to three months in hospital.
“I was put on all sorts of IV antibiotics, but they were not working for me.
“Things got so bad, doctors told me I only had six months left to live.
“My lung function was so low that I reached a point where I didn’t want to know as I knew it would only make me feel worse knowing how slim my chances of life were.”
Kieran was put on the waiting list for a double lung transplant in November 2013.
After hearing the tales of people who waited a long time for a call, only to then discover the organs weren’t right for them, Kieran knows how lucky he was to receive his first call just 11 weeks after going on the list - and for the transplant to go ahead.
Kieran recalls: “I was in bed when I got the call from the transplant co-ordinator telling me they had found a potential match for me and to make my way to Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester.
“The transplant went ahead and because my old lungs were in such a bad state, it took the surgeons seven hours just to remove the right lung.
“I was then given my new lungs.”
After being used to being on oxygen 24 hours a day and on a ventilator at night, Kieran recalls the moment he realised he could breathe without aid as amazing and strange at the same time.
He says: “I came round from the transplant and it was really weird being able to breathe.
“Most other people take breathing for granted but for me, it has always been a struggle.
“Before the transplant, I could not even have a bath or get dressed without help and being a 25-year-old lad at the time, that wasn’t nice.
“Not having to rely on oxygen to breathe made such a huge difference to my life.”
Kieran, who has a partner Sammi Wilson, 24, has ongoing health issues and has narrowing of the airways which he has had several operations for and has scarring on his new lungs after getting ill with pneumonia last year.
However, he knows he is unlucky to have these issues and he knows many people with cystic fibrosis who have had transplants and are now living full lives.
Kieran, who was a pupil at Our Lady’s Catholic High School in Preston, says: “Even now after transplant, I am taking 90 to 100 tablets a day and on seven nebulisers a day.
“But I still feel very lucky as considering I was told I had six months to live, I have already had an extra 18 months.
“All I really know about my donor lungs is that they came from a 22-year-old female.
“I am very grateful to my donor family as my double lung transplant has made a massive difference to me.
“Without it, I would not be here today.
“I am now just taking each day at a time and I am very grateful for the support I have had, especially from my mum Anne who has always been there for me.
“Since my transplant, a lot of my friends and family have signed up as organ donors and I hope many more people support this campaign by the Lancashire Evening Post.
“Giving people extra years of life and quality of life is the best thing you can do after death. It could be your family member or loved one who needs a transplant one day so it is so important for more people to sign up.”
Giving the gift of life is a campaign aiming to inspire at least another 2,016 people to pledge to donate their organs during 2016.
To register as an organ donor, visit: http://bit.ly/givethegiftoflife
But more importantly, tell those closest to you that you would like to become an organ donor and then record your wishes on the donor register.
That way, when the time comes, your family and friends will know you want to be a donor to help others.