A teenager is spending his first Christmas time at home thanks to a life-saving gift – a new pair of LUNGS.
Brave Keir Thompson, 15, was born with cystic fibrosis so his longest stretch away from hospital was just seven months – and he’d never spent December at home.
Three years ago his devastated family were told he needed a double lung transplant and without one he had just two years to live.
But just when he became so ill he could barely leave his bedroom in Cumbria his family received the call to say a match had been found.
He underwent major transplant surgery in May and it was a huge success and for the time time in his entire life he was able to breathe easily.
The schoolboy is spending his first ever entire Christmas holidays at home after countless festive periods in hospital when he was only allowed home for a night on December 24.
His proud mum Paula, 48, said: “December this year has been amazing. We are so looking forward to Christmas at home.
“We’re normally away for two to three weeks on the ward and coming home Christmas Eve.
“It’s been very strange not having our usual routine but so fantastic.
“The transplant has changed our whole life, especially Keir’s.
“He was housebound and now he’s living life to the full.
“He cycles, he runs, he lifts weights, and he’s even planning his first skiing trip to Switzerland.
“Less than a year ago he couldn’t breathe, eat a meal or walk – now he’s going skiing.
“It’s the life that miracles are made of.
“The stress and pain of watching your child suffer a terminal health condition is beyond frightening.
“There’s so little you can do and as a parent when medication is no longer working – you just pray a miracle will come.
“We are beyond blessed to have been given Keir’s miracle.
“There are some remarkable people out there in the world – people braver than one can possibly imagine.
“They are people who gift life. They are people who donor recipient’s and their families love deeply even though they may never meet.”
When Keir was just four-months-old he was suffering from wheeziness and mucus in his chest and was diagnosed with bronchiolitis.
Initially doctors thought it was caused by foot and mouth related funeral pyres near his home and said he had asthma, but his mum suspected it was something more serious.
Aged 11 months he was turning blue in the night and Paula was even forced to resuscitate him, so she took him to doctors and demanded more tests.
She told doctors she suspected he had a lung disease and a test of his sweat for salt levels revealed he had cystic fibrosis.
The condition causes a build-up of thick sticky mucus in the lungs, digestive system and other organs, and it gave Keir diabetes, epilepsy and pulmonary hypertension.
Every few months for his whole life Keir and Paula would have to spend around three weeks in hospital so he could have intense courses of IV antibiotics to target infections.
In 2013 his family, including sisters Amy, now 27, and Deza, now 20, were told his health had deteriorated, he had just two years to live and needed a double lung transplant.
He was referred to the transplant team in 2013, and went on their ‘active’ list in 2015.
Paula added: “He is a remarkable young man and coped extremely well with his prognosis.”
He continued to attend school until Autumn 2015 when he became oxygen dependent and was unable to walk around school.
In January this year the family got a call to say a match had been found, but heartbreakingly Keir was second choice and it went to a closer-matched candidate.
The teenager went on to became so ill he could no long go outside and struggled to leave his room when he got a call from the transplant team to say he had another match.
He was airlifted to hospital and underwent the seven-hour op at Freeman Hospital in Newcastle in May, just hours after getting the good news.
Paula said: “The miracle we prayed for had come.
“He received the first anti-rejection medication before being wheeled up to theatre and he smiled all the way and was much calmer than us!
“I received a call the next morning to say Keir was in recovery and we could go to see him in intensive care.
“The operation had gone well.
“We quickly got ready, not knowing what to expect.
“We had been told the apparatus keeping Keir alive may look scary but I didn’t see anything but my brave, pink son.
“No blue tinge to his skin, no blue finger or toes, no barrel shaped chest from his old diseased lungs.
“Nothing we saw in intensive care was as frightening as living with him while his health deteriorated.
“He wasn’t dying anymore – he had every chance.”
Remarkably Keir was out of bed a day after the op and “eating like a horse” and two days after surgery was out of intensive care.
Just six weeks later he was out of hospital and living in a special flat nearby, before going home a few weeks later.
He returned to school in September and Paula added: “Words can not describe the emotion I felt about his determination and bravery.
“He has done us and himself proud.
“It’s difficult to put into words how very grateful we are to Keir’s donor and donor family.
“There is never a day that goes by that we don’t think of their gift of life because for the first time in his whole life, he isn’t coughing or wheezy, he’s not breathless or chesty.
“It’s changed our lives hugely. Keir’s sisters can sleep soundly at night knowing they won’t lose their brother.
“I sleep soundly because I’m no longer listening out for every cough or breathless episode.
“I’m no longer scared about waking up to watch him deteriorate further.”
Keir’s family has spoken out after he nominated one of his physiotherapists Stephanie Graham from Great North Children’s Hospital for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust
‘Christmas Star’ award.
The charity funds medical research and supports people living with the condition and their families.
Keir said: “Steph is from the CF physiotherapy team and has kept my morale up on every occasion where my positivity was slipping.
“Last December Steph took me to St James Park, where we were the guests at Newcastle United.
“Steph and I shared the most amazing experience together meeting the players and then watching the match from the press box.”