Donor lungs save Nanna from life-threatening disease

MARION Walsham's book is a tribute to her two brave brothers who succumbed to the disease which she is recovering from.

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) also claimed the life of her 74-year-old father in 1990, the same year her 47-year-old brother died.

Both were "healthy, fit, strong men", Marion says.

She was diagnosed with IPF in 2006.

"We'd been away on holidays. I got a cold, runny nose and cough," she said.

"I went to the doctor and that led to the diagnosis.

"The scan pointed to end-stage idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

"I used to get quite breathless going up the stairs at work.

"I was quite unfit and I put it down to that."

Marion's book, Wishing on a Dandelion, is also a tribute to organ donor families who hand over "the ultimate gift of life".

"My brother was assessed for transplant but he ran out of time," she said.

"I was lucky. I was hell-bent on surviving.

"A lot of people die because there's not enough lungs."

The book's title recognises the role of Marion's grandson in her survival.

"As my life ebbed from the effects of IPF, my then six-year-old grandson Remy came across the dried bloom of a dandelion," she said.

"He took a breath, blew, and watched the delicate seeds disperse, announcing to his father, 'I wish Nanny could get new lungs'.

"Three hours later, we received news that donor lungs had become available.

"Miraculously, the lungs matched and I was subsequently transplanted with two healthy lungs.

"My gratitude for my new life lies with my donor and his or her family, the team at the Queensland Lung Transplant Service at The Prince Charles Hospital, Brisbane, and my family, including a little boy who wanted so desperately for his Nanny to have healthy new lungs."

That was seven years ago, when Marion was 62.

"What the carers go through is quite horrendous.

"Doctors don't know what causes IPF. It's totally lacking in research funds.

"I always did Pilates and I think that helped with my core strength."

Marion, of Banora Point, is keen to raise awareness of the disease, whose progression can now be slowed through medication.

She says the Australian Government initiative DonateLife and the non-government Transplant Australia are doing a superb job promoting the cause of organ and tissue donation.

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Wishing on a Dandelion is available online at Zeus Publications.

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