Meet Helen….


Growing up with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) has presented many interesting and challenging moments. I am the youngest of three siblings who all have CF. Luckily for me I have always naturally been competitive, independent and determined which has got me to where I am in life now!! 


‘Watching my brother and sister suffer with the disease and seeing it cut their lives far too short, I ensured I made the most of every situation and refused to give up even when it got tough. Sports (predominantly football and kickboxing) have been my main saviour along with qualifying to be a PE teacher. These have enabled me to overcome every obstacle on my journey. However, these became increasingly harder to participate in as the disease took hold and my lung function deteriorated. 


This is where my mental attitude became imperative to my survival. Simple tasks such as washing up, and sitting with my back against the seat were exhausting and difficult to do, never mind getting up for work and attempting some training. Despite everything I still managed to complete events such as Race the Sun with 40% lung function, and even train with an oxygen tank strapped to my back when my lung function hit an all-time low of 28%.


‘It was at this stage of my life I was put on the transplant list at Royal Papworth Hospital. I was familiar with their amazing work from previous experience, as my sister received a heart and lung transplant there. I still see this as a huge achievement though.


‘When I was born, I had a life expectancy of 28...I was 36 when I was added to the transplant list at Royal Papworth, which is a huge achievement.


‘Within four months, a pair of lungs became available for me, after 10 hours in theatre I woke up in critical care. Despite waking up with the tubes down my throat (not attached to a ventilator) I could feel the instant difference of being able to breath.


Since then I’ve gone from strength to strength and within six months I had my whole life back; work, training and socialising all with the greatest of ease. I can’t remember the last time I felt this good!! It’s been just over a year since this life changing moment and my lung function has continued to dramatically increase allowing me to train towards my third Dan black belt. 


‘On my one year anniversary I held a fundraising event as I felt it was a fitting tribute to my donor and their family, to whom I am eternally grateful to. It was also an opportunity to give something back to Royal Papworth, and allow them to continue offering hope and a future to other people’s lives, the way they have mine. In total I raised just under £3,500.’ 

If you would like to donate to Royal Papworth Charity to help fund vital research, equipment, training and support for Royal Papworth CF Unit please donate here.