A NORTH Perth teenager inspired hundreds at the Conquer Cystic Fibrosis Grand Ball on the weekend.
Sarah Kerr, 15, took to the stage at the Crown Perth ballroom in front of over 700 guests to share her cystic fibrosis story.
Sarah had her first ambulance ride and first surgery at just a few days old, with regular visits to hospital throughout her childhood.
“When I was eight, my lungs became a lot worse, and my tune-ups became more frequent – they were now every six weeks,” she told the crowd.
“By the age of 10 my lung function had decreased to less than 30 per cent. I could not walk from the lounge room to the letterbox.”
Sarah said in year five she only managed to attend three days of school.
In early 2014, she was flown to Melbourne to be assessed at the Alfred Hospital, home to the only dedicated paediatric lung transplant service in Australia.
“Back in Perth, I was having another tune-up in hospital when my mum received a call that changed my life,” she said.
“A suitable set of lungs had been donated by a family, and they were for me. I had just turned 11 years old.”
Within four hours, she was rushed to the airport to get to Melbourne and had a double lung transplant the next day.
“After 22 hours of hospital, I was discharged, and for the first time in my life I could breathe properly, without feeling like I was suffocating,” Sarah said.
“I could walk without getting breathless, I could taste food, and I was actually hungry.”
The teenager said while regular medical appointments and lots of tablets were still part of life, she had not had a single hospital admission for treatment on her lungs in the four and a half years since the transplant.
“I go to school, go to parties, concerts, shopping, and spend my dad’s money like all good daughters do,” she joked.
“I annoy my brothers, walk my dog, and if I’m lucky can eat all the food in the pantry before my brothers find it.”
Sarah recalled climbing the Eiffel Tower, running around Stonehenge and paragliding down a mountainside – along with getting kicked out of a pub in Edinburgh.
“In the future I’d like to travel more, go to uni and eventually get a job in the health sector where I can help other people,” she said.
“I’ve been one of the lucky ones who’s been given a second chance at life. I’m certainly not going to waste it.”
The teenager told the Guardian Express she had been nervous ahead of her big speech, but loved getting dressed up for the night.
Her advice for other young people going through health challenges was to take things step by step.
“Take one day at a time, and enjoy the moment,” she said.
The volunteer-run Conquer Cystic Fibrosis charity has raised almost $500,000 in the last 12 months with almost $200,000 of that coming from the weekend’s Grand Ball.
A large portion of the money is set to go towards a state-of-the-art Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion Machine (EVLP) at Fiona Stanley Hospital, used for donor lungs outside of the body before they are transplanted.