Woman Warned She May Have Just Weeks To Live Shares Her Final Wish

A courageous young woman warned by doctors she may have just weeks to live after her body rejected her transplanted lungs has broken off from planning her own funeral to urge people to sign up as organ donors.

Battling the incurable lung condition cystic fibrosis (CF), George Compton, 28, of Cobham, Surrey,  had everything to live for following a double lung transplant in August 2015.

But, tragically, in December 2018, her body started rejecting the organs and she contracted a series of infections.

George in December 2018 before she became unwell (PA Real Life/Collect)

Despite being told she may have just weeks to live, George only has gratitude for her fantastic life, the generosity of her donor and their family and the extra time her new lungs have given her.

Speaking from her hospital bed in Greater London’s Hillingdon Hospital she said:

“Not long ago, doctors warned that I could have just weeks to live. Since then, it’s been very up and down, but I’m getting stronger, especially mentally.”

“If the worst does happen, I have come to terms with it. I’ve nearly finished planning my funeral. I just have some letters to finish to family members and family to say goodbye.”

final wish
George on holiday in September 2018 (PA Real Life/Collect)

She continued:

“But I’ve had the most amazing life. I am so grateful for everything it has brought me, and everyone that has come in and out of it.”

“I can honestly say I will die the happiest girl ever and look back and say, ‘Yeah you know what, I made the most of that’.”

“If the worst does happen, I want my legacy to be that I lived, I loved, and I did it all with a smile on my face.”

George as a child (PA Real Life/Collect)

George’s inspiring words come as campaigners are calling for a resolution to an ongoing price dispute with pharmaceutical company Vertex, manufacturer of CF drug Orkambi,  which has shown in clinical trials to slow the decline of lung function, thus extending the life of patients.

CF patients and their families have implored the government to step in and override Vertex’s patent, to allow other companies to create the drug cheaper.

Diagnosed with CF—a genetic condition causing the lungs to become clogged with sticky mucus making it difficult to breathe—when she was a baby, George is a member of Share Your Wishes, a group of transplant recipients, live donors and families of donors.

George celebrating her 21st birthday at Royal Brompton Hospital in 2011 (PA Real Life/Collect)

They are all fighting to ensure that people disclose their decision to be organ donors to their loved ones, to help facilitate more donations.

In and out of hospital for the majority of her childhood, George was placed on the transplant list at 21, when her right lung collapsed.

Briefly taking herself off when she began to respond brilliantly to the drug Kalydeco, she was listed once again in September 2014, by which time she required round-the-clock oxygen.

And, despite her current difficulties, she speaks with humbling enthusiasm about her 2015 transplant, which she says changed her life.

“My health, up until now, has been amazing,” she said.

“All I wanted to do was make my donor proud of me and to live life happily with good lungs.”

“It’s the small things you take for granted, if you’ve never been able to do them and, after my transplant, I could go on walks with my friends, get a full-time job, climb the O2 and hike Orrest Head in the Lake District, which I did seven weeks post-transplant. Most importantly, I’ve been able to use my story to promote organ donation in a positive light.”

George as a child (PA Real Life/Collect)

One of the highlights of her life was meeting her donor’s family, after exchanging letters with them through a transplant co-ordinator, to ensure she stuck to strict anonymity rules.

George continued:

“Meeting them was incredible and overwhelming at the same time.”

“I’d have loved to have known my donor as a person, as I think we matched very well, but I want to say thank you for every second I’ve had with these lungs. I’ve not only been given more time with my family and friends, but good health to enjoy, which I never did growing up.”

George before her transplant (PA Real Life/Collect)

Sadly, things changed dramatically for George in mid-December 2018, when she was struck down with a chest infection.

Hospitalized over Christmas, she was only allowed home for a lunch with her family on Boxing Day.

Sadly, she was soon breathless and exhausted—signs of rejection which, according to the NHS, can occur when the body sees a new organ as a threat and produces antibodies against it.

George on the one year anniversary of her transplant (PA Real Life/Collect)

At Harefield Hospital, George was pumped full of steroids and antibiotics, but became to determined to be out of hospital by New Year’s Eve.

“I planned to get myself home as I had, unfortunately, been in hospital on Christmas Day,” she explained.

“On Boxing Day, I woke up not feeling 100 per cent, but had a shower, some painkillers and got all dressed up for lunch with my family.”

“When I got to their house, I remember saying I was going to quickly pop upstairs, but walking just 20 steps left me struggling to breathe.”

George as a child (PA Real Life/Collect)

She added:

“My family noticed and even had to say to me, ‘George, get your breath,’ as I was still chatting away, and am so stubborn that I never know when to acknowledge when I need to stop.”

Returning to hospital after lunch, George’s condition declined over the next few days, with her temperature soaring and antibiotics and painkillers ceasing to have an effect.

She continued:

“I remember messaging my mum, as she was at work, saying something wasn’t right.”

Next, George was put on oxygen and eventually moved to the high dependency unit, as she continued to deteriorate.

She said:

“Then, it felt like it all went really quickly. My temperature was raging and my oxygen levels were dropping. I was getting really unwell.”

Sadly, George did not make it home from hospital by New Year’s Eve as planned.

George celebrating her 25th birthday at Royal Brompton Hospital in 2015 (PA Real Life/Collect)

Instead, by 4 January, doctors were warning her family that, her lungs by now irreparably scarred by a string of infections and her body rejecting them, they may need to prepare for the worst.

“They said I had days. Even hours,” she added.

“I survived because I’m strong-willed, but I was in a dangerous situation.”

After that, George was transferred around various different wards as medics assessed the extent of the damage, while her helpless loved ones waited to see if she would pull through.

Remarkably, she did—but her future is still uncertain, although doctors are doing all they can.

Having made peace with the fact her time may run out, she hopes people will see her story as a positive one and that her words will now urge others to sign up as organ donors.

She said:

“I can take any news, so long as people are honest with me. I’m not scared of dying, but of leaving my loved ones. I know things haven’t been great now, but I still want people to know that donating organs doesn’t just change the recipient’s life, it changes their family’s too. Even if it buys an extra six months, every moment is worth it.”

George in hospital in January 2019 (PA Real Life/Collect)

She continued:

“I’ve had three and a half years because somebody said yes to giving me that chance. I didn’t want to die then, at 25. I had so much more to live for and I got to experience a life of breathing freely, which I could only have dreamed of. If in doubt, ask yourself what you would do if you, or a loved one needed an organ.”

A great supporter of the Share Your Wishes openness initiative, George wants everyone to let their loved ones know their desire to donate organs when  they die.

She continued:

“Have that conversation with your family. It’s not something people want to talk about, but making your wishes known makes that moment easier when the time comes. It also gives so much comfort for a person to know their loved one has lived on in someone else.”

For information, visit www.shareyourwishes.co.uk

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