Ipswich: Beautiful Kerry, 20, faces race against time to live

Most people take everyday activities for granted, but Kerry Thorpe dreams of the day when she can climb stairs without being carried, and take her dog for a walk.

When Kerry was just six months old she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF) – something which would affect her life forever.

Now she faces a race against time to find a life-saving double lung transplant.

At just 20 years old, Kerry’s life is a cycle of medications, treatments and hospital visits, but with her loving family and fianc�, Josh Nelli, by her side, she told the Evening Star how she was battling her condition with a smile on her face.

The disease not only means that her lungs are functioning well below average levels, but has also caused her to suffer from CF-related diabetes, an enlarged liver with the beginnings of liver disease and weak bones.

She said: “It has reached a point where my medicines no longer keep me stable, my health is declining very quickly and unfortunately I only have one option – and that is to have the transplant.”

In October 2010, doctors told Kerry that without the transplant she only had 18 months to live.

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“I was almost expecting them to tell me that,” she said. “But for the next few days, I was unsure of what I was going to do.

“I was scared of making the wrong choice and I was scared of telling people that I had to make this decision because it is either life or death.

“The more I thought about having the transplant, the more I wanted to have it done. My family has been there for me my whole life, and by not going through with the transplant I would have been giving up on myself and them.”

After attending a recent hospital assessment, Kerry was told that her lung function was at the lowest point it has ever been.

Her levels were down by another ten per cent since mid February, with her lungs functioning at just 22pc of that of a healthy person.

Fears of prolonged pain and ill health still fill Kerry with worry, but she is determined to have the operation and fulfil her lifelong ambitions.

However, the brave young woman, of Dover Road, Ipswich, is currently fighting to put on weight and remain as healthy as possible, as in order to be added to the transplant list she must tick a number of boxes.

The risky operation would see Kerry given a matching pair of lungs, which fit her body and would allow her to breathe freely and without pain.

But the operation itself is not a cure for CF as the rest of her body would still carry the illness.

“Anyone that is added to the cystic fibrosis transplant list needs a double lung transplant,” she said. “You couldn’t just have a single lung transplant because the CF infected lung would attack the healthy one.”

She added: “I try to have a positive outlook and maintain a big huge smile on my face, because every day that I wake up, I’m so thankful that I am still alive.

“They say you never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice. If I sat and complained every day or had a negative outlook and didn’t even think about what could be – I wouldn’t be living, I would be dying.

“I can’t wait for the day that I can run up the stairs and not struggle for air, take my dog for a walk and plan days out without a care in the world.”

Kerry accepts that the wait for her transplant could potentially be years away, however she is also hopeful that it could be a matter of weeks after joining the list.

“The bitter truth is that there are not enough organs to meet the demand of transplants,” she said. “But anyone unsure about becoming one, needs to know how much of a difference they can make.

“Something good could come out of an awful situation. By donating a heart, that person’s heart is living on in someone else.”

Until a month ago, Kerry did not tell people about the severity of her illness because she did not want to be a “burden”.

But in recent weeks she has made her blog entries public for the first time, which reflect her fight for life and love for her family, in particular her mother Jacqui and Mr Nelli.

Kerry said: “I began publishing my blogs for everyone to see because I thought it was time for people to understand, and I have been shocked at the amazing response. If I can make just one person learn more about CF, or sign up to be a donor, then I’m clearly making a difference.”

Kerry met her fianc� two years ago.

Mr Nelli said: “From the first moment that I met Kerry, I was struck by how much of an inspirational person she was.

“And even two years on, I still can’t quite appreciate how difficult things must be for her, but she hasn’t ever known any different.

“She continues as normal, with her positive, upbeat outlook on life, the transplant and her illness. She amazes me.”

- This year’s Press Ball, in the Ipswich Corn Exchange on June 17, will support the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Call mayor’s secretary Christine Christensen on 01473 432641 for tickets.

- To become an organ donor, visit www.uktransplant.org.uk

- Send us your letters of support for Kerry Thorpe. Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk