7 online friends with cystic fibrosis finally meet after life-saving lung transplants
George Compton, 28 GEORGE was diagnosed at 18 months and spent most of her childhood in hospital.
Even holding a conversation was a challenge as hospital administrator George, whose carpenter husband Lee, 32, has been her rock – would be too breathless to get words out.
Then, at 21, her right lung collapsed and she was put on the transplant list. But, doing well on drug Kalydeco, she removed herself against advice. In September 2014 her lungs Ashley Harris Moore, 36 ASHLEY was born before the heel prick test so was not diagnosed until she was two.
The condition did not hold back active Ashley until, aged 14, a severe infection put her on intravenous antibiotics.
She went to university but in 2015 declined dramatically.
Desperate loved ones, including her computer scientist husband Alastair, 38, launched Ashley’s Next Breath, to encourage people to sign up as donors. Ashley said: “The physical suffering was Libby Clare, 22 DIAGNOSED at two, psychology intern Libby could manage her condition relatively well.
But at nine, problems began when she got an infection that slowly ate away at her lungs.
Her lung function declined and at 16 she found herself in hospital more and more. But Libby pushed on, leaving her Cambridge home for the University of Southampton in 2014 and going Interrailing after getting approval from doctors.
But a week into the trip she began to give up again. Put on the transplant list, she got new lungs 11 months later. Her life changed instantly, as she was able to do all the little things that had once felt impossible, like blowing out birthday candles.
The next year, she met her donor’s family after letters and they remain close.
George, from Cobham, Surrey, said: “I’ve lived not able to breathe properly. After the op I could whistle and blow-up balloons – stupid little things that meant a lot to me.” horrendous but I wouldn’t wish the emotional toll on anyone. Worrying what would happen to Emerson (her baby son) if I didn’t make it was torture.
“Even now, I’ll catch him getting ready for school and feel so grateful.”
Ashley was on a machine to buy time when, thankfully, a donor was found.
In 2015, she had a new pair of lungs and is indebted to her donor and their family for the chance to see Emerson, now four, grow up. Ashley, of South London, said: “Their selflessness has transformed my life beyond my wildest dreams.” collapsed. A CT scan found she had very severe pneumonia. As it developed into chest sepsis, she was in and out of hospital for eight months. Her medical team got her on a trial of Orkambi – a drug campaigners want made available on the NHS. It let Libby grow strong enough to be considered for a transplant and she had the 14-hour op in May 2016. She said: “If this buys me one more year, it’s still longer than I would’ve had. The best way I can honour my donor now is live my life to the full.” THIS could be seven ordinary women enjoying an afternoon of prosecco.
But the photo is a true picture of courage – as they became friends while waiting for lifesaving lung transplants.
All born with cystic fibrosis, George Compton, 28, Ashley Harris Moore, 36, Libby Clare, 22, Holly van Geffen, 26, Sharon Brennan, 37, Charlotte Davies, 24 and Josie Stewart, 25, have had their lives saved by the kindness of anonymous donors.
Diagnosed with the genetic condition as youngsters, they had a few years of good health before declining to the point where they needed new organs.
Holly, whose deterioration started aged 18 when a lung collapsed, said: “You try to battle on as best you can and not let your condition hold you back.
“But there does come a point when you see all your peers growing up, becoming more independent and doing all these adult things while you feel as if you’re regressing.”
Although all had the support of family and friends, they found it was a great help to speak to somebody else who was weathering the emotional storm of waiting for a transplant.
Over time, they found each other through a Facebook support page, eventually setting up a Whatsapp group called Transplant Girls.
Josie said: “We built up such a special bond.”
But, due to strict cross-infection rules, cystic fibrosis patients are normally told not to meet in person until after their operation.
So for years their friendship existed only in the digital world, where they spoke every week. At
ASHLEY GEORGE HEALTHY: George and pets after op LIBBY