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Wedding bells for Karen Lyons a year on from life-saving lung op

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Karen Lyons

Karen Lyons

Clockwise from main: Karen Lyons and (inset)
with her partner Greg, with family and friends
before she left for treatment, her journey to
Newcastle for the double lung transplant, and
recovering after the operation

Clockwise from main: Karen Lyons and (inset) with her partner Greg, with family and friends before she left for treatment, her journey to Newcastle for the double lung transplant, and recovering after the operation

Karen Lyons during her time in hospital

Karen Lyons during her time in hospital

Karen Lyons with her partner Greg

Karen Lyons with her partner Greg

Karen with family and friends before she left for treatment

Karen with family and friends before she left for treatment

Karen Lyons

A Co Fermanagh woman is today marking the first anniversary of her life-changing double lung transplant, just days before she marries the love of her life.

A year ago, Karen Lyons from Enniskillen underwent the surgery at the specialist Freeman Hospital in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

The 32-year-old is believed to be the only person in Ireland and Britain suffering from a rare genetic condition called pulmonary surfactant metabolism dysfunction type two (SMPD2) which meant oxygen did not pass properly through her lungs.

After testing it was found her mother was a carrier of the condition, which also caused the tragic death of her sister Christine at the age of 27 in 2009.

Six years ago Karen was living with her fiance Greg Piergrosse (36) in Australia, where she was in the process of applying for a partner visa that would allow her to become an Australian resident.

In a routine tuberculosis check-up for the visa, she found out that her lungs were severely scarred, and she decided to return home to Northern Ireland.

A transplant was believed to be the best option for Karen and she was placed on a waiting list in September 2017.

Two months later, after tests at the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen, doctors noticed that the area around her gallbladder had become inflamed and also found a clot in her heart.

Eight litres of fluid were drained from her lungs and she spent five days in intensive care before being transferred to Newcastle.

Prior to the surgery, Karen was receiving oxygen 24 hours a day as she only had a lung function of 20%. A fortnight before her operation she believed a match had been found, but the organs were deemed too large for her body.

Finally, after a tense wait, a suitable donor was found and she had the surgery, returning home for the first time in three months last March.

Since then Karen has gone from strength to strength and while she still attends the hospital in Newcastle for regular check-ups, she has delighted doctors with her quick recovery.

She said: "This time last year I had days to live and was terrified I would never make it waiting for the right lungs. Luckily the beautiful new lungs came and gave me my life back.

"I can't believe it has been a year. I feel like a completely different person and I'm delighted to say I have had no rejection so it's all looking great!"

As well as marking her anniversary, Karen is preparing for another milestone this week.

On Friday, she will finally marry Greg at Enniskillen Town Hall - and it will be a case of third time lucky for the couple who have had to cancel their wedding twice in the past due to Karen's illness.

She explained "We had initially planned to get married in Australia.

"Because my health was getting worse, we re-booked our wedding for December 2017 but had to cancel that, too.

"We decided to go ahead over Christmas and set a date.

"After all we have been through, we wanted a small and intimate ceremony."

They will marry in front of 60 family members and close friends, including Greg's parents who have flown over for the big day.

As she marks one year on from her life-saving operation, Karen is particularly mindful of her organ donor and family to whom she will be forever grateful.

"Obviously I don't know what happened to my angel donor, but because of her I have been able to start living and dreaming again.

"I wish I could give her and her family the biggest hug and tell them all about my new life, hopes and dreams that they are making come true."

Karen has been documenting her story on her 'My Lung Story' Facebook page, in a bid to get more people signing up to become organ donors.

"You can't shut me up about organ donation - I talk about it everywhere I go to show people that this is what it does.

"I don't think a lot of people have met an organ recipient so I want to show the difference it can make to someone's life.

"I know of so many people who have signed up because of my story so hopefully I'm doing something right."

Belfast Telegraph