WHEN Melissa Graham went to see her doctor about her shortness of breath in 2005 she had no idea the visit would change her life.
The then 22-year-old Armidale local, who was studying nursing at the time, had been brushing off her symptoms as the affects of carrying a little extra weight for about six months.
But her diagnosis turned out to be much more sinister.
She was told she had a rare lung disease known as primary pulmonary hypertension, which, left untreated, lead to heart failure and death.
In the six months following the devastating news, Mrs Graham took an array of trial drugs aimed at dilating the blood vessels in her lungs, but nothing worked.
In September, as her condition and prognosis continued to deteriorate, the inevitable happened and she was placed on a transplant waiting list.
As luck would have it, exactly a month to the day after being added to the wait list, Mrs Graham received the heart-stopping phone call she had been desperately waiting for – a compatible donor had been found.
She was quickly airlifted to St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney where she underwent a successful life-saving double lung transplant.
Not knowing if she would live or die was “terrifying”,” Mrs Graham said.
“After a couple of years I summoned up the courage to ask the doctors how long I would have lasted without the transplant,” Mrs Graham said.
“They said ‘I would probably have been dead three months afterwards’.
“It’s pretty scary to think about, but at the time I was 22 and you sort of tell yourself everything will be allright.”
Now, the operation theatre nurse is fit and healthy, working at Tamworth hospital and living life to the full.
However, the act of a stranger’s selflessness is never too far from her mind.
Coinciding with DonateLife Week this week , Mrs Graham is encouraging all community members to talk to their families about their organ donation wishes, as they are the ones who have the last say.
“Unless you have been there you don’t realise how it can change someone’s life,” Mrs Graham said.
“Since my transplant I’ve been able to get married, go on cruises, work full-time, buy a house – things that I wouldn’t have even dreamed of.
“Just to be able to breathe and live life is great.”