DECADES after being given a terminal diagnosis, a Truro woman has had a rare, life-saving double lung transplant.
Only 171 people underwent the procedure in the UK last year. Linda Jones had been encouraged to ask to be put on the waiting list by her carer, Alison Bowker.
The operation has transformed Linda's life. She had previously lived like a hermit as she struggled for breath so badly that washing and dressing would take an entire day.
But since the operation she now walks into town from her Bodmin Road home and has fulfilled her dream of returning to see Truro City Football Club play.
The 55-year-old said: "I feel as though I have been frozen for years and someone has finally woken me up. It's amazing, people tell me I look ten years younger."
She has been left partially sighted, her liver and kidneys were close to failing and other complications remain from living with the condition for two decades, but she added: "I'm not perfect but my lungs are fantastic. It's saved my life."
Linda has alpha one, a genetic condition which can result in serious liver or lung disease, or both.
It was discovered when she was rushed into hospital at the age of 34, struggling to breathe. The former council employee was told nothing could be done and she struggled on with the "invisible" disease.
She said: "No one realised how ill I was, because they cannot see your illness."
Her consultant Martin Carby, a respiratory physician at London's Harefield Hospital, said: "Linda did not have long to live – we managed to match her with an organ donor just in time.
"She had end-stage emphysema which destroys the lung tissue. Instead of having normal lungs which are like a car sponge, quite a substantial thing with lots of spaces within it, a diseased lung is like a piece of lace with great big holes in it."
Joining a Breathe group in Falmouth helped Linda keep fit for the transplant and she is now writing a book about her experience and campaigning for people to become organ donors.
She said: "Someone died to save my life, so I want to try and help other people now."
Mr Carby added: "There are masses of people who need lung transplants and don't get them because we restrict access to the waiting list so it is realistic. One of the major barriers is consent to organ donation."
For more information about becoming an organ donor visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk