Essex: “This is my second chance at life and I won’t waste it” says double-lung transplant woman Justine Laymond
Life began for Justine Laymond after she underwent a life-saving double lung transplant around seven years ago.
The 40-year-old was suffering from a rare lung condition, Lymphangioleiomyomatosis, which affects about one in a million people, and caused her lungs to fill up with cysts.
Miss Laymond, from Chelmsford, said: “I suffered with ill health for about 10 years and no doctor knew what was wrong with me.
“I was in my early 20s when I had two right lung collapses and I had a surgery to prevent it from happening again.
“You put your faith in the system but it was very difficult and I was living off painkillers.”
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A decade later Miss Laymond was walking upstairs and was left out of breath.
She was rushed to hospital.
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“I had a double lung collapse which was very serious,” she added.
“I was transferred to the specialist Harefield Hospital where I had a CT scan and the doctor saw hundreds of cysts in my lungs and diagnosed me with Lymphangioleiomyomatosis.
“He said I was going to die if I didn’t get a transplant.
“It’s one of the world’s rarest diseases as it’s not genetic and there’s no cure.”
In a short space of time her left lung collapsed a further 13 times and her right lung was destroyed by the disease.
Former aerobics teacher Miss Laymond said: “The doctors tried to operate but unfortunately I didn’t take to it and was put in an induced coma for three weeks.
“I came round and was still on life support and remained on it for two months.
“During that time I was taken off the transplant list as you can’t be on it when you’re on life support.
“It was really horrific. I called it my ‘dark days’ but I found the strength because I was young and wanted to live.
“I was put on another breathing machine and was relisted.”
Miss Laymond lived in the hospital for six months and waited 16 months for her transplant, with three false alarms.
“Emotionally it was very up and down,” she said.
“I also had to take into consideration that someone has lost somebody at the same time.
“It was July 9, 2006, the transplant co-ordinator came to my room and said ‘are you up for a transplant?’ and the room just lit up. It was a euphoric moment.
“Within five minutes I was rushed down to theatre and when I woke up afterwards I was waving my arms in the air and that was when my life re-began.”
Miss Laymond, who has two brothers, was discharged from hospital within three weeks and has not looked back. She has taken part in the UK Transplant Games, European Heart and Lung Transplant Games and the World Transplant Games collecting an impressive 23 medals in different sports.
Last year she became the first double-transplant patient to sail the Atlantic Ocean in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race.
She committed to the final leg: a 4,000-mile journey from America to Nova Scotia, Ireland, Holland and back to the UK.
Miss Laymond has received numerous accolades but the biggest was being voted in the Daily Mail’s Top Five Inspirational Women when she was presented her award by Paralympian Sarah Storey.
More recently Essex Bootcamp has become a massive part of her life.
“I have become addicted to it and the trainers and directors have become massively supportive,” she added. “It has actually boosted my lung function as well.”
Last month, Miss Laymond flew out to Durban in South Africa to take part in the World Transplant Games in ladies badminton doubles, mixed badminton doubles, shotput, discus and lawn bowls where she competed in her last games.
She came home with two bronze medals for discus and lawn bowls.
“The competition was extremely difficult this year,” she added. “The discus was really close.
“You only get three throws. The first was a foul and the second landed out of the area.
“With the last throw I really went for it and got about 15m.”
But now Miss Laymond wants to begin a new chapter in her life.
She said: “I’m writing my autobiography, I want to keep raising awareness and become a professional speaker.
Since her transplant, Miss Laymond, who works part-time in a call centre, has been diagnosed with the early stages of obliterative bronchiolitis which leads to an increase in fibrous tissue and a narrowing of the airways.
“Some people can live for a very long time post-transplant and others die within a year.
“Having a transplant means you don’t have an immune system and I’m on a concoction of medication.
“I think of it as someone could get knocked off their bike tomorrow and it’s a lesson for us all.
“We should live for now and not wait five years because you just don’t know what’s going to happen.
“I have a second chance.
“It could be for a short time or a long time but I’m going to do what I can as soon as I can.”