Mem­o­ries rest in ink for cys­tic fi­bro­sis suf­ferer

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - HAN­NAH MARTIN

Be­fore Re­bekah Hen­der­son gets a new pair of lungs, she wants to pay trib­ute to the friends she lost to the same ill­ness.

Hen­der­son, who lives in Three Kings, has been on the ac­tive wait­ing list for a life-sav­ing dou­ble lung trans­plant since May 2016.

The 27-year-old lives with cys­tic fi­bro­sis, an in­cur­able ge­netic ill­ness which causes the pro­duc­tion of ab­nor­mally thick mu­cus that blocks the lungs. In 2015, she was di­ag­nosed with re­s­pi­ra­tory fail­ure.

Hen­der­son has 11 in­tri­cate, brightly-coloured tat­toos across her body, and is hop­ing to com­plete the last one be­fore her trans­plant rules out her chance of get­ting tat­tooed again.

She has started a me­mo­rial tat­too for three friends she lost to cys­tic fi­bro­sis: a rose each for Josh, Amy and Steven are inked onto her fore­arm, along with their ini­tials and the dates they died.

All of her tat­toos ref­er­ence cys­tic fi­bro­sis, or ‘65 roses’, as it is some­times re­ferred to.

Tat­toos give Hen­der­son back some of the con­trol her ill­ness has taken from her, she said.

‘‘I can’t con­trol what my body does from day to day, what meds I take, what my lungs are go­ing to do, or any­thing else in my world, but I can con­trol what ink I get: what de­sign I want, where it goes and who sees it.’’

A fam­ily friend has started a Givealit­tle page to fund Hen­der­son’s me­mo­rial tat­toos, rais­ing $483 so far.

She’s hop­ing to cre­ate a full sleeve, in­clud­ing the me­mo­rial pieces and a trib­ute to her late nana.

Now that she is on the ‘ac­tive’ trans­plant list, it’s a wait­ing game. A new pair of lungs could come to­mor­row, next month, or a year from now, she said.

Hen­der­son’s cur­rent lung func­tion is be­tween 15 and 24 per cent.

Imag­ine run­ning in a mas­sive race, and once you’re done you just never seem to be able to catch your breath – that’s what it’s like, she said.

So a life with­out oxy­gen tanks and neb­u­lis­ers is ex­cit­ing – no mat­ter not be­ing able to get tat­toos.

They are highly dis­cour­aged, in some cases pro­hib­ited, after trans­plants due to the high risk of in­fec­tion.

‘‘Peo­ple for­get tat­toos are an open wound,’’ Hen­der­son said.

As she waits for her new lungs she’s adding to her six-page ‘bucket list’ the things she wants to do post-trans­plant.

‘‘Peo­ple for­get tat­toos are an open wound’’

HAN­NAH MARTIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Re­bekah Hen­der­son, 27, is wait­ing for a life-sav­ing dou­ble lung trans­plant.

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