Claydon: Even the rain can’t wipe the smile off Phoebe Fordham’s face - heart and lung transplant survivor appreciates everything life has to offer
13:30 29 July 2014
She feared the day would never come, but today heart and lung transplant survivor Phoebe Fordham is making plans for her wedding.
Phoebe, of Claydon, was just 15 when she was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, a life-threatening condition which causes fainting and dizziness and makes taking part in any kind of exercise and many activities nearly impossible.
Initially she was given a few months to live, but thanks to support and medication she received at Papworth Hospital, she successfully battled against any prognosis the doctors gave her.
“It was a goal for me, rather than something to be feared,” said the 26-year-old.
It was that determination that kept Phoebe going, despite what the debilitating disease had done to her. And today, she can finally look to the future with hope after receiving a life-saving heart and lung transplant which has turned her life around for the better.
One of the biggest changes since the operation has been her ability to take part in some of her favourite activities again.
Phoebe said: “I feel so appreciative of everything I have now. It’s even the stupid things like feeling the sun because I used to be just too tired to go out.
“I didn’t realise how much I was losing until I got it all back. I didn’t miss running so much until I ran down the garden for the first time in years.
“Going into the water for the first time earlier this year. It was teeming down with rain, it was torrential rain, the type that hurts your skin when it hits. It was cold weather but I sunk in and I just loved it.
“That was something that really was quite important to me. I looked at my fiancé and I could see he felt it, too. I’m looking forward to the many new things I can do now.”
Pulmonary hypertension is a condition which leads to an increase of blood pressure in the pulmonary artery, pulmonary vein, or pulmonary capillaries.
This leads to a multitude of problems including shortness of breath, dizziness and fainting.
During her 10-year battle, Phoebe admitted her condition continued to get worse and worse and the need for a transplant, which she got in October, was getting increasingly desperate.
She grew up not being able to participate in the things most people her age were doing and that she slowly lost her ability to take part in many activities.
Looking back before the transplant, she said: “Being a young person with such a debilitating disease wasn’t a nice experience.
“I was getting to the point where I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t breathe, I was struggling to walk even tiny distances. I was more dependant on other people.
“I think increasingly there was a feeling of maybe things might not work out how we wanted.
“Looking back at photographs about a year ago I looked so drawn and tired. Since the transplant I have put on weight, I look healthy and more awake. Everybody I have met has looked at me and been amazed at how healthy I look.”
After getting a new lease of life, Phoebe is now preparing to marry her long-term partner Adam Bester, also 26, next summer, the man she said has been one of her biggest supports.
But she is also determined to say thank you to others who have helped her. This weekend, a group of her friends will be taking part in an event called Lost In Suffolk, where teams will be dropped off at different locations and will need to get to a designated area.
That will raise funds for the Papworth Hospital Charity.
She says she will always be grateful to that organisation but also that the constant support of her friends and the family of her donor, will never be forgotten.
“The donor’s family could have said no, we don’t want our loved one touched, and that would have been understandable,” she added.
“But the absolute joy they have given us and the hope for the future they have given us – we are incredibly grateful.”
For more information about Lost in Suffolk, or to donate, visit www.lostinsuffolk.co.uk
Among those taking part in the Lost in Suffolk event on August 2 will be Phoebe’s friend, teacher Zoe Markillie.
For Zoe, who now works in Brighton, the fundraiser is particularly close to her because as well as helping Phoebe, her mum, Helen, also had a heart transplant there seven years ago. She suffered from cardiomyopathy.
Zoe, 26, is full of praise for the hospital as she has seen first hand the changes it can make to people’s lives.
She said: “They do something really important – they save so many lives every year. My mum couldn’t walk to the other end of the garden but now she can go all over the place. It also changes people’s lives. It’s not like any other hospital.”
Zoe added that the changes she has seen in Phoebe since she got her transplant have been truly remarkable.
“We didn’t think she would live to this age. She got worse and worse over the years and couldn’t walk very far.
“A few weeks ago we went for a bike ride and that was very emotional because I didn’t think we would ever do that.
She can now walk much further and she has got her life ahead of her.”