"I could take a deep breath for the first time in years" 

Born with cystic fibrosis, Sammi Sparke is now embarking on a new life thanks to an organ donor who gave her a new set of lungs, and her father's donation of a kidney.

 

Before her lung transplant, Sammi, from St Neots, Cambridgeshire, was desperately ill and housebound, barely able to walk.

"I wasn't particularly conscious of my cystic fibrosis for most of my life, but in the three years before my lung transplant, I was very ill. I'd always had occasional intravenous antibiotics and spent time in hospital, but I never considered it as anything other than an obstacle to overcome," says Sammi.

In 1998, Sammi developed pneumonia after an operation on her lungs, and doctors told her she needed a lung transplant.

"I was shocked to learn from my consultant that I wasn't going to get any better, as I'd always bounced back in the past. They said I should consider transplantation, and having to accept I was really ill made me depressed. I felt my life was over.

"I had some unusual medical problems, and for a time there was a question mark over whether they would attempt the transplant. I was so relieved when they said I could be registered for it. I'd seen friends have transplants and do very well, and I'd seen other people with cystic fibrosis die because a donor wasn't found in time. It was a very scary time."

Sammi had to give up her media studies degree in her second year because the disease left her housebound and almost helpless.

"I'd pass the time watching television and was inspired by travel programmes. I began to plan trips abroad for when I was well enough and started an Open University degree. Some days were better than others. I felt that all I had to cling to was the belief that one day I was going to receive the new lungs that would save me – that someone out there would be kind enough to donate them to me."

A donor was eventually found to match Sammi's needs, and she had a double lung transplant at Papworth Hospital, Cambridgeshire, in August 2002.

"The difference after the operation was instantaneous. As soon as I woke up, I didn't want to cough anymore. It was incredible. I could take a deep breath for the first time in years. I was still very weak after months being housebound as my muscles had wasted away, but otherwise I felt very well and recovered from the operation quickly."

Sammi enjoyed a new lease of life for two years following the transplant, but she had a setback when her kidneys failed due to the anti-rejection medication she was taking. Sammi's father stepped in to offer her one of his kidneys.

After the kidney transplant operation, she undertook a nine-month world trip, fulfilling the plans she'd made when waiting for her lung transplant.

Page last reviewed: 28/06/2016

Next review due: 28/06/2019