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Saturday, 26 July 2014

Finesse August Issue 2014

Somehow I was asked to do an interview for an afrikaans magazine, Finesse. I can't speak a work of Afrikaas so I did the interview in english and it was translated. For all of those who, like me, can't understand what the article says, here is the english translation (Or so I was told - hopefully it's correct)

Organ donation can drastically change someone’s life

A little over a year ago, Fawn Rogers (27), had a double lung transplant. She was born with cystic fibrosis, a disease that affects various organs, but especially the lungs.

“I was constantly sick and in and out of hospital. It was not always possible to attend school and I missed out on a social life, and later the opportunity to go to university. When I was about 24, I was completely dependent on oxygen and could not leave the house, because I was always on the oxygen machine – not the way a young girl, or anybody, wants to spend their life.”

Fawn was extremely sick. Besides not being able to breathe, she is also a diabetic and her pancreas does not produce enzymes. She needs to take supplements and watch her diet to ensure she does not lose too much weight. “People often say I’m so lucky because I cannot get fat … but how lucky am I really?” After the double lung transplant, her life is better, although she is still troubled by cystic fibroses and the challenges that goes with it.

“It’s difficult to explain the total change in my life … The best way to describe it is that before the transplant, it felt like I breathed through a straw. Each breath is hard work and you feel claustrophobic. I never knew how it felt to take a deep breath … Try it. Wonderful, isn’t it?”

Although you dream about it every day, you are never really fully prepared for the news that a suitable donor was found, Fawn says. “Of course there were times when I was scared, unhappy and desperate. But there is always hope. Hope made me believe that new lungs were just around the corner … I just need to hang on a little longer. And then, one fine day, a suitable donor was found!”

Fawn was told that a lung transplant is a radical procedure with a 50% chance of her not surviving. Therefore doctors suggest that patients say their goodbyes beforehand. “Maybe I was slightly prepared for that, but I believed a 100% that I was going to make it. All I could think about was how I was going to feel when I woke up."

Fawn’s recovery process was long and not without challenges and setbacks. But today she is a normal young woman, looking for a job and has her dreams – just like all of us.

“I’m still getting used to being healthy, it’s quite overwhelming!”

Here are the original questions the journalist asked me whilst putting together the article - 

1. As a child, growing up out of breath – what did you miss the most?

I couldn’t partake in much sporting activity at school and whilst I would’ve liked to be more involved with that, I didn’t feel too left out. What I missed the most was being able to go on all the school camps with my classmates. I had to do vigorous physio and nebbing daily so going away for long periods without the help of my parents was just not possible at times. My mom came with me to one of the camps which was great because I finally got to experience the team building and fun that my peers had constantly told me about. 

2. Did you have “normal” dreams about your future? Regardless of your illness?

I am a very positive person so I didn’t let my illness get in the way of my dreams. 

However, as with anyone, as you get older you tailor your dreams to become more realistic. I did struggle with the concept of marriage and kids because I wasn’t sure if I would get to that stage in my life and I didn’t want to set myself up for disappointment. Now, marriage is something that I eventually want to have but having children is still a bit of a foreign concept to me. I’ll cross that bridge when I get there! 

3. Were you ever rebellious about your health? Cross that it had to happen to you? Tell us a bit about those low moments and emotions?
Yes, I think I had my ‘mid life crisis’ very early. I was about 12 when I went through the ‘why me’ ‘it’s not fair’ emotions. I remember sitting on my bed crying whilst receiving painful treatment and telling my mom that I didn’t want to do it anymore! I’m not quite sure what got me out of that dark time, it didn’t last long and I haven’t had a ‘breakdown’ since. 

I guess I just realised that THIS is my life and I could either accept it and be happy or I could complain and live an unhappy life. 

4. What is it that makes you pull through? Why did you never quit fighting? Or were there times that you thought – OK, I’m done.

HOPE. Hope made me pull through, if having a transplant wasn’t an option I don’t know what I would’ve held on to, to get me through the hard times. 

I knew that once I had my transplant I would have a whole new life and THAT was worth fighting for. 

Yes, I had bad days when I thought giving up would be easier but then I thought of my family and how devastated they would be if I didn’t pull through, so they also kept me going.

5. After the transplant – did your dreams for your life change? What are they?

It’s such a difficult thing to explain to people how very different my life is to before transplant. It’s barely hit me that I’m ‘normal’ now and just dealing with ‘normal’ life things is rather overwhelming. My dream was to receive new lungs and now that that dream has come true I think it will take a while to navigate my new life before I can think of a new dream! 

6. What is the one thing that changed in your life after the transplant that you are most happy about. That makes you want to pinch yourself to check if it is indeed happening?

There are honestly so many things that have changed, I want to pinch myself everyday! Driving, taking long baths, exercising, cooking and going out with my friends to name a few. One of the ‘happy thoughts’ I used to get me through the transplant process was going back to my home in Zimbabwe and seeing all my animals. When I finally went home in December last year I think that was a real ‘Am I dreaming?’ moment! I was unbelievably happy to have made it home, it had always seemed like such a distant dream. For it to have come true was really special! 

7. Do you think about your donor? Create some sort of picture about him or her in your head? 

The first night after my transplant, before I had woken up for the first time I had some very strange dreams. I had flashes of a family mourning, a wife and 2 daughters. There were picture frames of them and I had dreams of family outings with them. I haven’t had the dreams again but it was a little disturbing at the time. I often think of my donor’s family and hope that they would be proud of how I am living my second chance. 

8. Any last thoughts?

Most people I talk to about Organ Donation say that they want to be a donor but just haven’t signed up. You can still be a donor if you haven’t registered but for someone waiting for organs it gives them hope to know that people are signing up to be donors. When I was still waiting for lungs my transplant co-ordinator would tell me about all the awareness they were doing and that more people had signed up. That gave me hope that they would find me a donor soon, and they did! 

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