New lungs for brave Katie
- Credit: Archant
Barnstaple teenager given gift of life just days before 15th birthday.
A BARNSTAPLE teenager is recovering in hospital following a life-saving double lung transplant.
Critically ill cystic fibrosis sufferer Katie Gammon has spent much of the last year in and out of hospital battling infections and was told new lungs were her only hope.
She needed around-the-clock oxygen and used a wheelchair to get around after her lung function deteriorated to just 12 per cent.
The Park Community School student had been on a transplant list for 14 months and in October last year, the Gazette reported the family’s desperate wait for a suitable donor.
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But less than two weeks before Katie’s 15th birthday, the family finally received the telephone call they had been waiting and hoping for.
Dad Andy said: “We got a call out of the blue to say they’d found a donor and it was time to get moving.
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“Timing was critical; we left Barnstaple in an ambulance at 9.45am and were at London three-and-a-half hours later.
“It’s the first time we’ve had a call like that. We hardly spoke to each other on the journey up to London – it was just numbing.
“Within 10 minutes of getting to Great Ormond Street Hospital, Katie was on her way to the operating theatre.”
What followed was an agonising seven-hour wait for Andy and Katie’s mum Angie Hart, who launched a campaign in the Gazette to urge people in North Devon to sign to Organ Donor Register.
Katie was sedated for the first 20 hours and was initially breathing using a ventilator.
“Apart from a little bit of oxygen she is now totally breathing on her own,” said Andy, speaking to the Gazette just three days after the operation.
“Every hour, another machine is being taken away. We can see her breathing – her chest is going up and down – we haven’t seen that in a long time.
“She is still in intensive care and will be for another 48 hours,” added Andy.
“She will not be discharged for at least four weeks, but it’s her birthday next week and we hope to be able to hold a little party for her in the hospital to celebrate.”
Andy said Katie had been unable to speak until coming off the ventilator and had been communicating with her mum and dad by writing notes on pieces of paper.
“One of them asked us if she’d had the transplant,” said Andy.
Katie has taken to Facebook to tell friends: “Feels good having new lungs; just need to get used to them. Thanks for all for the messages, it means a lot to me.”
Andy said: “I don’t think it’s sunk in for any of us yet. We can’t thank people enough. Everyone has been truly amazing and the support and messages from hundreds of people back home has been incredible.”
The family have said their thoughts are with the donor’s family and have vowed to continue to continue to campaign to encourage more people to sign the Organ Donor Register.
On October 12, they are organising their third annual Tarka Walk in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. In 2011 the event raised £1,500, while last year’s walk raised £7,000.
This year, the proceeds will be split between the CF Trust and the Caroline Thorpe ward at North Devon District Hospital.
“Katie will be there,” said Andy. “She’ll be the guest of honour.”
More details about the walk and how to get involved will be published in the Gazette nearer the time.
n To join the Organ Donor Register, click on the link at the top right of this page.