‘I owe my life to Star readers’ says South Yorkshire woman

Christine Thornton underwent a life-saving lung transplant after Star readers backed a campaign calling for more organ donors.
Christine Thornton underwent a life-saving lung transplant after Star readers backed a campaign calling for more organ donors.
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A mum who waited more than a year for a double lung transplant has been given a second chance at life – after a campaign by The Star recruited thousands of new organ donors.

Christine Thornton was struggling to get out of bed, relied on oxygen to breathe, and had to give up her job because of a genetic disorder which gradually reduced the function of her lungs.

But she is now recovering back home after the crucial call she had been waiting for came through from the NHS Organ Donor Register, and the gruelling transplant operation was able to go ahead.

More than 22,000 people in South Yorkshire signed up as life-savers through last year’s Gift of Life campaign, smashing the target by almost double.

An overjoyed Christine, aged 46, said: “It feels very different – I can do things again without struggling.

“I was constantly relying on oxygen and I haven’t got that now, it used to be scary when they took that off me.

“The Gift of Life campaign is possibly what helped me get the operation.

“I had a few calls which turned out not to be donors, then a long period without any, so it could have speeded up the process.

“It just shows you the real stories behind the numbers.”

Christine received the call at home in Aston, near Sheffield, and was rushed to Newcastle for the operation the same day. Her lungs had previously been described as like those of a 70-year-old because of alpha one antitrypsin deficiency, which means her body doesn’t make enough of a protein that protects the lungs, from damage.

The former supermarket worker, who wrote a blog for The Star about her agonising wait for a transplant, said: “When they took my lungs out they said they weren’t much cop, I don’t think they would have lasted a lot longer, and my body was so weak. I was even on dialysis for a bit.”

The Star is revisiting the Gift of Life campaign during Local Newspaper Week to show how community newspapers can make a difference.

Graham Moor, of Westfield Health which backed the drive and sponsored the British Transplant Games in Sheffield last year, said: “It has made a difference. Three people die every day waiting for a transplant, which is shocking, and the more donors we have the more chance we have of reducing that. The whole campaign was very positive and the support of The Star was absolutely crucial – I don’t think we would have got that amount of people signing up without it.”

Jayne Fisher, team manager for the Yorkshire Organ donation services team at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “We hope even more people will sign up and tell their families about their organ donation decision.”

* Sign up at www.organdonation.nhs.uk, text SAVE to 84118 or call 0300 232323.