July 11, 2017

Back from the brink

Just five years ago she was preparing to die at Dignitas. Now Janka's fighting fit - and in love:

 Janka Penther Back From Brink

Janka Penther was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was six weeks old. Doctors told her she would die by 21, and at 30 she found herself in a dark place. "My lungs were giving up - I had 11 per cent lung function. I couldn't walk from the sofa to the kitchen. I knew if I had a coughing fit I would collapse and might never get up again. Every day was a battle I thought I'd lose."...'I was 30 but living like an 80-year-old...housebound, breathing through an oxygen mask attached to a tank beside my sofa. It felt like trying to breathe through a tiny straw."
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When she was finally unable to walk and relied on a tube in her stomach to eat, she was deemed a suitable candidate for a double lung transplant - and after she'd spent just three weeks on the waiting list, a donor was found in April 2013.  Within 24 hours of arriving at Harefield Hospital in West London, she was out of intensive care and breathing on her own.  'I can't describe how magical that was,' she says, tears filling her eyes. 'My mum was crying, I was crying. Suddenly, it wasn't an effort to breathe any more.

Janka, who had never dared to think beyond the next six months, could now plan for the future. A year to the day after her transplant, she ran her first 5km race. She started swimming, surfing and running again. Last month she completed a 20-mile assault course and on Saturday she travelled to Malaga, in Spain, to compete in the 50m freestyle swimming event at the World Transplant Games.

Personally, too, her life has been transformed. She met Rob, a chef, in January and moved to Oxfordshire to live with him. They plan to buy a house of their own and open a café, and are even thinking about having a family. Although pregnancy would be too risky for her health, Janka has considered fostering and adoption.
'Some days I can't believe it,' she beams. 'I'm still on medication - I take about 50 tablets a day to stop my body rejecting these lungs - but for the first time, I'm happy."
Posted by Jill Fallon at July 11, 2017 10:56 AM | Permalink