An Anglican lay minister told she could be dead by Christmas is set to see many more after a miraculous last minute lung transplant.
Joyce Herdson was diagnosed with a rare lung disease in 2012, but doctors told her no treatment existed and warned she was unlikely to live for more than two and a half years longer.
Scarring caused by idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis ended her active lifestyle, and the 51-year-old went from walking family dog Pippin five miles every day to hauling an oxygen cylinder around.
By January 2013 she was told the only option left on the table was a double lung transplant, but languished for a year on the transplant list as donor shortages held things up.
Then, last New Year’s Eve she got the call she thought would never come.
She said: “I was on oxygen 24 hours a day. Everything was just getting harder – simple tasks were extremely difficult. I lost lots of weight, and they said if I hadn’t had the call to say a donor had come through when I did then I wouldn’t have been around for much longer.”
Joyce, an authorised lay minister at St Andrew’s Church in Radcliffe, worried she would leave behind husband Colin, 53, along with their children Luke, 18, and Lewis, 21.
She said: “They had to take on a lot of responsibility but excelled at a hard time when they were just coming up to important exams. To see me just sitting there, not able to do anything, was really hard for them.”
But now fighting fit, she is making slow progress back toward the quality of life she enjoyed before her illness. She has paid tribute to the donor’s family, who were able to allow somebody else to live on after their own tragic loss.
She said: “It must have been New Year’s Eve when they died. That at their darkest time they were able to bring some hope back into our family’s time was incredible. What a gift that was. It’s something I’ll never take for granted.”
After figures showed 24 patients died awaiting transplants in Greater Manchester in 2014, while 415 face Christmas still waiting for donor organs.
The region has seen 171 successful transplants this year, but Joyce said increased awareness would save lives.
She said: “I think having people opt out, rather than opt in, is the best option to encourage more donors. People see the campaigns and they think ‘Oh, what a great idea’. But something distracts them, and then they never get round to it.”