May 1, 2016

My gift of life

Marion Walsham, double lung transplant recipient

Marion WalshamThe loss of her father and two brothers to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), her own diagnosis of IPF and a double lung transplant has led Marion Walsham from Banora Point in NSW on a journey of gratitude, the desire to help others and to raise awareness of the disease.

I received my “gift of life” in 2009 at the age of 69, just two weeks after being listed for a double lung transplant and, according to physicians at The Prince Charles Hospital, Brisbane, just 24 hours before my likely death. My father and eldest brother who was aged only 47, died three months apart in 1990 and my surviving brother died in January 2014 aged 68. We had all been told, “You have IPF, there is no known cause, no cure and the only effective treatment is a lung transplant.”

Following my IPF diagnosis, I resigned from my career in journalism to prepare physically and emotionally for what was ahead. I headed for The Prince Charles Hospital for a consultation with the Director of the Queensland Lung Transplant Service and by the end of the initial visit, I had faith and hope that things would work out.

I took part in a worldwide drug trial but my condition deteriorated towards the end of 2009. I was on the transplant listfor only two weeks when my IPF exacerbated to the extent that I was admitted to a local hospital. I was lying in an ICU unit struggling to breathe when word came through there was possibility of a transplant. An ambulance transferred me to The Prince Charles Hospital, and after some hours, a transplant coordinator told me the lungs were a match and surgery would proceed. I will never be able to find the words to describe the euphoria of waking from anaesthetic with my new lungs. I left hospital after 11 days and walked into beautiful sunshine, feeling so honoured, privileged and grateful to have the lungs that had belonged to another human being.

As part of my journey, I have written a book entitled Wishing on a Dandelion, named as a result of the action of my then six year old grandson who wished on a dandelion that “nanny could get new lungs.” I want the book to raise awareness of IPF as I have spoken to people who are so shocked by their diagnosis. Many of them have never heard of IPF and are naturally devastated, along with their families, when told of the seriousness of it. In addition to writing my book, I support IPF patients through Lung Foundation Australia’s IPF Peer-to-Peer Support Group in which I am one of the original core of five volunteers.

To order your copy of Wishing on a Dandelion, contact Zeus Publications on 07 5575 5141 or visit www.zeus-publications.com. For further information about IPF or the Peer to Peer Support Group, please contact Lung Foundation Australia on 1800 654 301.