NZPAH Trust and Support Group

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Lisa's Story

Renwick resident Lisa Erikson who had a double lung transplant in June

LizaAt the beginning of the year Lisa Erikson could barely do simple chores like brush her teeth without getting out of breath but eight months and a double lung transplant later and she feels like a new person.

She is only the 173rd person in New Zealand to have the transplant done.

It's a procedure that transformed and saved her life. The Renwick mum had been struggling with a rare lung condition known as pulmonary arterial hypertension since 2009.

No cure is available and one can only be treated for the symptoms. For Lisa those symptoms took a serious turn in 2010 when her condition deteriorated suddenly.

"I was constantly out of breath, just moving around or having a conversation was to much for me. I had to be on oxygen 24/7 and was even wheelchair bound - it was really tough," Lisa says.

Through all this she cared for her young daughter MirianaHaitana, now 4, lived through both Christchurch earthquakes - as she was living in the city at the time - and battled with the Earthquake Commission after the house she and her partner, Carlin Haitana, owned was condemned.

"It was a very difficult time. Carlin and I decided to move to Marlborough because I grew up in Blenheim and have a lot of family here who could support me," she says.

Lisa's condition eventually got to the point where only a transplant would save her life and she began travelling regularly to Auckland to prepare for the operation. While there she stayed at a special accommodation for heart and lung transplant patients called Hearty Towers, and it was there that she found the courage to go through with the very risky procedure. "That place is just amazing. To be able to meet people going through the same thing as you and those who have done it already was awesome - if I hadn't had that experience I would never have been able to go through with the operation," Lisa says.

She was incredibly lucky and just six days after being put on the active waiting list she got a call to say that a pair of donor lungs was available for her.

A 12-hour operation and 24-hour induced coma later and Lisa awoke able to breathe properly for the first time in years.

"My new lungs are the greatest gift you could ever receive from another human being - I'm totally in love with them. I can now finally do the things that normal mothers do and actually enjoy being a mother. I even went for a little run. Words can't describe how thankful I am to the family of the donor," she says.

She doesn't know much about the donor other than she was a woman but will be able to get in contact with her family. It's something she definitely plans to do.

In the meantime Lisa, who is a midwife by profession, is just enjoying being able to breath normally. Coming from a very active and sporty family she had always battled to keep up, but now looks forward to getting out there. "I have my life back again."

Organ Donation NZ