THE young Dublin woman who underwent a world-first double lung transplant yesterday revealed the first thing she did after recovering from surgery . . . she treated herself to a shopping spree.
Becky Jones (20) thanked the surgeons in Manchester who helped her to breathe again and told the Irish Independent that she has never felt as well as she does since the life-saving surgery.
The Castleknock woman made history after becoming the first cystic fibrosis patient to undergo a lung transplant while suffering from a drug-resistant infection called aspergillosis, caused by a common airborne fungus.
Becky, who is still recovering at the University Hospital of South Manchester after the operation on May 29, yesterday told the Irish Independent: "I had forgotten how it felt to be healthy. I'm not even sure if I've ever felt this well.
"I feel completely different. I can breathe again, which is amazing. Before the operation, I was on oxygen 24/7 and I felt breathless walking from place to place," she added.
Although she dreams of becoming a fashion designer, Becky's chronic condition forced her to spend all her time sitting at home.
But now that the doctors have allowed her out of the hospital for a few hours, she has been out for lunch and even indulged her love of fashion by squeezing in some shopping. "I can't believe it, I absolutely love it," she said.
Her mother, Aisling, has been at her bedside since her daughter got the call that a donor had been found and was overcome with emotion yesterday as she described Becky's transformation.
"Becky is doing fantastically well, she can't believe her luck. She's still in recovery stage but feels so well already compared to how she was before the operation.
"We're absolutely thrilled and very grateful to the surgeons, doctors and all the staff here for taking Becky on in the first place and for doing such an amazing job."
Becky was airlifted from her home in Dublin to the hospital in Manchester for the operation at the end of May and her mother admitted that she and her husband, Barry, spent a traumatic day while the 11-hour operation took place.
"We were told by her surgeon, Piotr Krysiak, that it was a very high-risk operation and there was a chance that she could die on the table, so naturally we were very anxious," Aisling said.
"We tried not to dwell too much on it as we waited for the operation to finish."
Her only daughter had been waiting for a lung for 14 months and it was a long road that brought her to this life-saving operation in Manchester.
"Once she developed the aspergillosis it made her case much more complicated. The doctors in Tallaght didn't think it was possible for her to have an operation," Aisling said.
"It was Jim Egan, a transplant physician in the Mater Hospital, who encouraged us to go to Manchester to see a specialist in that area, Professor David Denning."
Prof Denning suggested a lung transplant because he couldn't cure her and there was no way of treating her condition.
"It was a transplant or nothing," Aisling explained.
"The transplant centre in Manchester was able to take on the operation only because it had the help of a specialist in the aspergillosis area who was prepared to treat her before and after the operation."
Becky is hoping to be discharged from hospital on Monday or Tuesday, but will have to stay in Manchester as an out-patient for a month or so before returning home.
She said she was looking forward to getting home to see her three younger brothers and her father Barry, who are currently in Dublin.
Top of her agenda when she gets back is to travel and take a break in the sun, but after that she is hoping to go to college.
"I'd love to study fashion design. That's all I've ever wanted to do. So now that I can actually do things, it's what I'm going to focus on."