Katie, 14, faces lung donor wait

Teenager’s family urges people to join the organ donor register.

THE family of a seriously ill Barnstaple teenager on a long waiting list for a double lung transplant is urging people to sign the organ donor register – today.

Katie Gammon, 14, enjoyed a normal childhood despite being diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as a baby.

But since her health began to deteriorate in 2010 she has lost weight and struggles to breathe with just 16 per cent of her lungs fully functioning.

Katie was put on the transplant waiting list four months ago and now faces an agonising and desperate wait for life-saving surgery.

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The Park Community School student hopes to be able to sit her GCSEs next year but has not been able to go to school since February this year.

She now relies on a machine to provide around-the-clock oxygen and uses a wheelchair to enjoy even the simplest of teenage pleasures, such a trip to the shops with her friends.

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Cystic fibrosis affects the internal organs, especially the lungs and digestive system, and is one of the UK’s most common life-threatening inherited diseases.

According to the latest statistics, there are currently 215 people in the UK awaiting a lung transplant, with 17 of those under the age of 18.

Only one in three people have signed the NHS Organ Donor Register, something Katie’s family is campaigning hard to change.

They recently spent the weekend at the Green Lanes Shopping Centre, urging shoppers to sign the register and promoting the work of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

Mum Angie Hart told the Gazette: “Katie needs new lungs as soon as possible – someone of the same height and same blood group.

“It’s so important that people sign the donor register today – I want this little girl to get new lungs.”

Sister Louise added: “I just get the feeling that we’re going to get the call this Christmas – that Katie will get her new lungs and be able to breathe properly and walk with her baby nephew.”

Just two weeks ago, Katie learned the devastating news that her 15-year-old friend had lost her long battle with cystic fibrosis just hours after her family had made a desperate appeal for a lung transplant.

She had become good friends with Birmingham teenager Lucy Wilton, after they met on Facebook.

But while Katie’s lungs make life a daily struggle, the teenager is all heart when it comes to bravely facing up to the problems brought on by her illness.

She is hoping to raise �1,600 to buy a mobility scooter to regain some of her independence and has organised a sponsored walk along the Tarka Trail, taking place on Saturday, October 27.

She said: “I can’t really walk very far and need a wheelchair to get around in. With an electric wheelchair it will be easier as I’ll be able to go off on my own without needing someone to push me.

“I did a sponsored walk for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust two years ago and raised �1,500.

“Any money left over will be donated to the Caroline Thorpe ward at North Devon District Hospital.”

Katie, who is taking part in the walk using a mobility scooter being loaned by the Braunton Mobility Centre, is urging people to join her on the walk from the Civic Centre to the Braunton Inn and back.

More than 130 people have already signed up to take part in the event on a specially-created Facebook page called ‘Tarka Walk’.

The walk is �6 for adults and �2 for children. All registered participants will be given a free T-shirt and sponsor forms.

For more information or to get involved, telephone Angie Hart on 07557 441761.

The North Devon Gazette is supporting Katie’s family’s appeal to encourage more people to register as an organ donor.

To sign up, log on to the donor service website at www.organdonation.nhs.uk or telephone 0300 1232323.

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