A woman who was just days from dying when her life was saved by donor lungs has had an emotional meeting with the dead woman’s daughters.
Georgina Compton, 26, from Cobham, Surrey, had been battling cystic fibrosis since she was 18 months old, when an urgent call-out was made for life-saving lungs.
Her saviour came in the form of 51-year-old mother-of-two Gill Davis, who died suddenly after a brain aneurism in August 2015.
Now, a year and a half after Georgina made a full recovery, she’s had a moving meeting with Gill’s daughters, Natalie Wonnacott, 31, and Hannah Winser, 27, giving her the opportunity to say thank you in person.
Georgina, a lettings negotiator, said: “I’ve lived my whole life not being able to breathe properly.
“Even having a conversation, before it would take me forever to get my words out and I wouldn’t be able to talk properly.”
Cystic fibrosis, an incurable, life-limiting condition, is genetic and causes the lungs to become clogged with thick mucus.
Before receiving her donor organ, Georgina struggled to breathe, eat and walk, even for small distances and spent much of her childhood in hospital.
She was placed on the transplant list when she was 21 after her right lung collapsed. But when she responded so well to the drug Kalydeco, she removed herself from the list against doctor’s advice.
Then, in September 2014, her lungs started to give up and, after routine tests for transplant, was put back on the list at Frimley Park hospital, in Surrey.
“I could barely walk from the bathroom to the bedroom and I was back on oxygen 24/7,” Georgina, who is married to Lee, 30, a carpenter, recalled.
In August 2015, she finally received the organ and heart surgery to correct a previous operation that had gone wrong.
A vein leading to her heart had narrowed causing to swelling in her head. But when surgeons operated to widen the vein, the stent that was fitted slipped into her heart and couldn’t be removed.
She said: “I was in hospital for a month in total after the transplant. I had experiences that were completely new to me.
“For the first time, I could blow-out candles, whistle and blow-up balloons – stupid little things that meant a lot to me.”
The new lungs changed her life instantaneously and George wasted no time in making the most of her improved health – by climbing mountains in the Lake District and walking across the roof of the O2 arena in Greenwich.
But one of the most important things on her wish list was saying thank you to the loved ones of her organ donor.
In December 2015, she wrote a letter and passed it on to her transplant co-ordinator.
Georgina only knew her donor was a 51-year-old woman and would not be able to find out if the family had read her letter.
But a few months later, in February 2016, she received a reply.
Georgina said: “Once I read it, I couldn’t wait to look at the pictures they had sent. She was beautiful and I could see she was so much fun.
“The words that really choked me up were, ‘send my love to the lungs’. I burst into tears when I read them.”
Her donor was 51-year-old pub housekeeper, Gill Davis, whose husband John, 52 – stepdad to her daughters – runs a pub.
Previously healthy, Gill had been battling a severe headache all day in August 2015, when she woke up in the middle of the night, vomiting.
Her daughter Natalie, who works for her husband’s joinery business and has two children, Zoe, three, and Bertie, one, was alerted by a doctor at 5am.
She and her receptionist sister Hannah, who lives in Guildford, Surrey, rushed to Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.
Hannah said: “It was very traumatic, seeing her lying there.
“It was like she was sleeping. But there was no question that she would pull through.”
Tests revealed that Gill had no brain activity and her family expressed their wishes for her organs to be donated – giving other people the gift of life.
Gill had been a passionate supporter of organ donation and carried her donor card everywhere she went.
Hannah said: “I’d spoken to Mum on the phone two days earlier and the last thing I said to her was that I loved her.
“Now we all had to go in and say goodbye for good.”
That evening, Gill was taken to theatre, where surgeons removed her lungs, heart, two kidneys, liver and corneas.
All of the organs have been used except for the corneas, which can be kept for two years.
Although they were grieving, her family tried to move on and Natalie gave birth to her second child, Bertie, in November.
The following month, the family received the letter from Georgina and were amazed when they heard how much difference her new lungs had made to her life.
Georgina replied to their letter with pictures of her before and after her transplant, but the communication died down.
Then, in August 2016, a Press Association news story about Georgina’s journey appeared on Natalie’s Facebook feed.
She said: “We sent messages back and forth and she could see pictures of Mum and what was going on in our life and I could see the fact that she had a life.”
In December 2016 Georgina, who is a trustee of the organ donation charity Live Life Give Life, was in Devon and asked Natalie if she wanted to meet for coffee.
Natalie added: “When we met, it was like we’d known each other forever.”
A few weeks later, Georgina was in Guildford, where Hannah worked, and asked to meet.
They then decided to get together on January 8, at a tea terrace in Guildford.
Georgina said: “I felt guilty for being so happy with my life, because even though I was on the brink of death, Gill was perfectly healthy and she went to sleep one night and never woke up.
“I wasn’t praying for someone to die, I was asking someone to say yes to organ donation.
“The girls are so lovely to me and they have no anger towards me.
“We had such fun on Sunday (January 23) when we were all together for the first time; it was like we had been friends for years.”
Now Hannah, Natalie, her children and husband have signed up to be organ donors.
Natalie said: “It made such an awful situation better.
“Mum would have been dead regardless of whether she’d donated her organs or not.
“Georgina is here and she wouldn’t have been here if it wasn’t for our mum.”
For more information about organ donation visit www.livelifegivelife.org.uk