By Alice Vogt
I am South African and was born with Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disease affecting the lungs and digestive system. I was diagnosed at age two, and my parents were told that there is about a 20% chance of me reaching the age of 20. However, I had a fairly normal childhood, apart from all the daily treatments and occasional IV antibiotics. My health gradually deteriorated, but I was still able to go to university and finish my degree. During my Honours year things changed, unfortunately, and suddenly I needed supplemental oxygen and much more frequent IV antibiotics. My lungs were colonised with multi-resistant bacteria. I lost weight, breathing became more difficult than ever before, and I had to drop my studies.
I was listed for a double lung transplant in 2007, at the age of 22, and eight months later in 2008, I got the miracle call that changed my life forever. After my transplant, I was able to start working for the first time in my life, I could breathe normally for the first time ever, I didn’t have to spend hours every day doing treatments anymore, I met my husband and got married, bought a house, and got pets. Basically, I was able to do things normal people do at that age. I also started playing squash and going to the gym and ended up being part of the SA team for the World Transplant Games in 2009, 2011 and 2013 – playing squash and doing the 3km race walk. I’ve traveled abroad and have met the most amazing people – athletes, doctors, nurses, other medical professionals, new friends and fellow patients. There are some absolutely awesome people out there.
My donor, in essence, gave me my twenties. Without these lungs, I most likely wouldn’t have seen my 24th birthday, and now I’m 33. Even if I only had a few healthy months post-transplant, it would still have been worth it, though. Surviving a transplant teaches you to appreciate every day, especially the ones where you feel fantastic. You always remember how fragile life is and know how quickly anything can change, so you live life to the fullest. I’m heading towards 10 years post-transplant now, however, I am in need of a second transplant. I can’t complain though, as 10 years is great as far as lung transplants go. I really hope that I will be lucky enough to get lungs again, and will be able to participate in sports again, travel again, and see my nephew grow up. There are so many things I still want to do!