Rhianna Johnson will never forget the phone call which changed her future – an organ donor had given her the gift of life.
The Bargara resident grew up with Cystic Fibrosis and had faced many challenges, undergoing multiple procedures, before being placed on a waiting list for a lung transplant.
When she received the call to tell her there were a set of lungs available for her to undergo a double lung transplant, Rhianna said she felt like she had been given a second life.
“Growing up, I was pretty healthy for someone with Cystic Fibrosis as often you are sick all the way through, but in 2011 my health dropped down when I caught swine flu, and in 2016 when I caught influenza A,” she said.
“From then it was just a downhill slope.
“In 2022 I had a procedure to stop the bleeding in my lungs as I was coughing up a lot of blood but that resulted in a stroke, so I now have right leg deficits for the rest of my life as well.
“The procedure didn’t work, so I was still coughing up blood and after trying it two more times, it still didn’t go so well so the last decision was to put me on the transplant list and to go down this route.”
Rhianna said the transplant had given her a new lease on life and it was the simple things she appreciated the most.
“For me, having the transplant was never about doing something extravagant like being able to go skydiving and jump off cliffs, it was just to live normally,” Rhianna said.
“I do not cough until I vomit anymore, I can sleep through the night, I can work, I can pick up my niece and nephew’s, it really is just those everyday things that make the big difference.
“It is being able to do the simple things that really make the big difference for someone who is struggling to breathe or struggling with functions of the many organs that our bodies need.”
Waiting only three months for the transplant, Rhianna said while it is not a cure, it has given her the opportunity to continue to live her life.
“I was quite lucky as my wait time was not too long, with some people waiting years, and my recovery was pretty good, so ‘touch wood’ everything is still going pretty well,” she said.
“I will be on anti-rejection medication for the rest of my life, along with anyone who has an organ transplant, so we are immunocompromised forever.
“Our bodies can reject the lungs or the organs at any time so while it is not a cure; it is a chance to give someone more time.”
Looking forward to the opportunity’s life has to offer, Rhianna has wasted no time in keeping herself busy, buying a business and planning a holiday.
“I am planning a trip to Ireland and the Mediterranean for my 30th next year, which is very exciting but also just to be normal, and travel and watch my family and the kids grow up,” she said.
“I have bought a mechanic business over East and rebranded it to Ultra Tune in February and that is keeping me very busy.
“I think being sick all of my life I have always grabbed everything and gone with it, I don’t really take no for an answer, so I grabbed it by the horns and we ran with it.”
DonateLife week encourages registrations
Rhianna is sharing her story as part of DonateLife week hoping to encourage others to register to be organ donors, as they may just save someone’s life.
“You cannot take your organs with you when you pass,” she said.
“Why not give the gift of life and help another family have more time with their loved one because you never know if you are going to help a mother, father, daughter, brother or a friend.
“It literally takes a minute to register, and if it is something you want to do, just do it.”
Find out more here.
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