THE past 10 years have been a whirlwind for Sammi Sparke. She has successfully completed two degrees, travelled the world – and is now setting up her own photography business. Every day is precious for the 33-year-old, who is making up for lost time thanks to the organ donations that saved her life just days – or possibly hours – before time ran out.
Born with cystic fibrosis, Sammi was just 6 months old when she was diagnosed with the UK’s most common life-threatening inherited disease. The result of a faulty gene which controls the movement of salt and water in and out of the body’s cells, cystic fibrosis attacks the lungs and digestive system with thick mucus, making it hard for sufferers to breathe and digest food. At 19, and a year into a media degree at Sheffield Hallam University, Sammi became so ill doctors confirmed her only hope for survival was a lung transplant, and she was placed on the NHS Organ Donor Register (ODR).
“I went through quite a big depression at that stage,” recalls Sammi, now 33. “At that point I couldn’t walk very far; I couldn’t go up a flight of stairs very easily without getting very out of breath.”