Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Woman whose lungs collapsed 15 times wins gold at transplant games

Justine is thrilled by her haul of medals from the European Heart and Lung Transplant Games which were held in Sweden
and will compete in British Transplant Games in August

By Daily Mail Reporter at daily mail online

A former fitness instructor who defied death after a one-in-a-million lung disease put her in a coma, has gone on to win gold at an international sports event.

Justine Laymond battled back from the brink after her lungs collapsed 15 TIMES.

She became a track and field star after receiving a life-saving double lung transplant.

Justine took home six medals at the European Heart and Lung Transplant Games last month.

She also competed in the badminton, squash, as well as sprinting, long jump and the relay. And now she plans to compete all over again this month.

She said: 'I used to be really into fitness and I worked in a gym. It was awful to know that my body was wasting away and there was nothing I could do.

'By July when I had my transplant I was close to death. I had nothing left to give and doctors were amazed that I had survived so long.

'The double lung transplant could not have come soon enough for me. But after the operation the difference I felt in myself was incredible. For the first time in several years I could breathe without effort.

'It took me a while to get back to peak fitness but now I feel on top of the world.

'I'm really proud of my achievements and especially my gold medal. I can't wait for the next contest.'

The feisty 37-year-old started to have problems with her lungs when she was 21 and suffered two lung collapses in her early twenties.

It took ten years and a further lung collapse before doctors diagnosed the incredibly rare condition Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) in 2005.

Soon after the diagnosis Justine took a turn for the worse. Within just eight months her left lung collapsed a further 13 times.

Eventually Justine was hospitalized for six months in February 2006 while she waited for a transplant.

Unable to eat, walk, drink or eat, her body was deteriorating fast. She was on oxygen 24 hours a day and was put into a coma for three weeks.

Finally, in July 2006, Justine received a new pair of lungs from a donor and has been rebuilding her life ever since.

Her journey back to health culminated in her bringing home gold for Britain in the European Heart and Lung Transplant Games which were held in Sweden.

Justine said: 'I know because of my illness I can't take life for granted. I've been on such a rollercoaster journey and I now I try and live every day to the fullest.

'I started to have certain symptoms when I was around 20 years old. But at the time I had no idea that there was anything seriously wrong.

'It wasn't until my left lung collapsed in April 2005 that I had a CT scan. I expected that something was seriously wrong, but nothing could have prepared me for what I was told.

I was told that I was in the 'end stage' of the disease Lymphangioleiomyomatosis, and my world just fell apart.

'I listened in disbelief as the doctors told me that my right lung had completely failed and my left lung only had about 30 per cent lung capacity.

'I was in an incredibly dark place and that time still haunts me to this day. I knew I had to stay alive though- I never gave up.'

Now Justine's future looks bright with a number of planned athletic events.

She said: 'I'll be competing in the British Transplant Games in August playing squash, as well as sprinting, badminton, long jump and the relay. I can't believe how far I've come.'

LAM is an extremely rare condition that affects around one person in a million.

The disease affects a certain type of muscle cell and only occurs in women. Just 60 people in the UK are known to have it.

The condition causes an overgrowth of a certain types of cell. This overgrowth occurs around the airways and also around the blood vessels and the lymph vessels, which usually drain excess fluids from the lungs.

The cells lead to cysts developing in the lung which can be detected by taking a CT scan of the lung.

For more information visit the LAM Action website

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