The family of a 28-year-old woman who needs a double lung transplant have made a desperate plea for help to save her life.
Libby Nash is being treated in the intensive care unit at Belfast City Hospital after falling ill at the weekend and has been told she will not be allowed to go home until she gets her transplant.
It is the latest devastating blow for the Randalstown woman who has been waiting for a double lung transplant for almost six years — much longer than most people have to wait before a suitable match is found.
Her sister, Jacqueline Letters, said: “We’re not really asking people to do anything but think.
“You never know, there could be a family out there going through a really difficult time and they could see this and make a decision that will save our family.
“Her husband James wants someone out there to give Libby the gift of life.”
Mrs Nash has spent her entire life in the shadow of a life-threatening disease — cystic fibrosis (CF) — and she even had to miss out on her honeymoon so she could receive the vital treatment she needs to stay alive.
CF affects the internal organs — especially the lungs and digestive system — by clogging them with thick sticky mucus which makes it hard to breathe and digest food. The condition results in chronic infections and inflammation in the lungs.
Diagnosed at just three years old, Libby spent much of her childhood in and out of hospital and her lungs have deteriorated to the point that doctors have said her only hope of survival is a double lung transplant.
But with only a small fraction of the population signed up to the NHS Organ Donor Register, she has spent almost six years waiting for a suitable match to be found — well in excess of the average wait of 519 days for a lung.
She recorded her anxious wait in a diary for the Belfast Telegraph and in January she spoke of her hope that 2012 would be the year she would get the operation that would save her life.
Lynne Holt, transplant co-ordinator based at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle where Northern Ireland patients go for lung transplants, said Mrs Nash is one of nine people from here waiting for such an operation. “A lung operation is a massive procedure but it is a life-saving operation,” she said.
“I hope that people realise how desperately we need donors.
“It is so important that we have as many people on the donor register as possible and that they discuss their wishes with their families.
“People waiting for a lung transplant can wait a variety of times for their operation, depending on their size, blood group and tissue type. In Libby’s case, she has been waiting an extremely long time.”
Health Minister Edwin Poots, who met Mrs Nash in her home, said he was upset to hear her condition has deteriorated.
“I met with Libby in August 2011 and I was amazed at her determination,” he said.
“She is a true inspiration. I send her all my best wishes and I hope that she is able to receive her life-saving transplant as soon as possible.
“This further highlights how important it is for everyone to sign up to be an organ donor. This simple act can save and prolong someone’s life. It is a truly wonderful gift to give.”
There are nine people from Northern Ireland waiting for a lung transplant and five people on the waiting list for a heart. To sign the register and save lives, text SAVE to 84118, call 0300 1232323 or go to organdonation.nhs.uk
However, organs will only be used if family members give permission so it is essential that anyone who wishes to donate discusses this desire with relatives.