DOUBLE-lung transplant mum Natalie Kerr thought Christmas 2011 would be her last.
The 31-year-old was so poorly on Christmas Day that her parents had to help her give presents to her two young children while she sat on the sofa attached to an oxygen machine.
But thanks to an organ donor and a successful double-lung transplant in February, Miss Kerr was given a second chance at life — and an opportunity to enjoy Christmas with 10-year-old Brandon and four-year-old Isabelle.
Since her transplant, the former Royal Bolton Hospital nurse has made the most of every moment.
Miss Kerr, who was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension four years ago, said: “It was my first Christmas being well with Isabelle and the first time I could properly enjoy it with her.
“If I hadn’t have had my new lungs then I wouldn’t be here now. I was getting the presents wrapped early for last Christmas in case I was going to die.
“I was so poorly I knew I couldn’t go on. I was no use to anybody.
“I was sitting there with my oxygen mask on watching them open presents and I couldn’t even help them put things together.
“The kids didn’t know any different, really.
“I just smiled and carried on. What kept me going was hoping that I would get new lungs and all the time I was constantly thinking about getting better.”
Since having her operation, Miss Kerr, from Adlington, has amazed doctors with her progress and she now has check-ups every three months.
She has been making the most of being well and has celebrated Bonfire Night and Halloween with the children, and got a new puppy, a chocolate Labrador.
The family also went on holiday to Spain, though Miss Kerr had to fly back home and go straight to intensive care at Wythenshawe Hospital after just one day abroad when she began to struggle to breathe. She said this Christmas has been extra special and that she enjoyed shopping and taking the children to see Father Christmas for the first time.
She said: “The kids were so excited and I couldn’t wait to decorate the house and get the Christmas music on.”
Another highlight was the pantomime at Bolton Albert Halls. It is an annual tradition for the family but Miss Kerr says this time the children were excited because they could “sit where they wanted”. Last year mum was in a wheelchair.
She hosted more than 10 members of her family on Christmas Day after making a deal the previous year that if she got new lungs she would cook.
Miss Kerr said she thinks of her donor every day and wants to encourage others to sign the donor register to help others.
She said: “If the lady who gave me her lungs could see how much she has changed my life I think she would be very happy.
“If only she could see the smiles on my kids’ faces.
“Brandon wrote me a letter today and it said ‘I love you mummy and I am so happy that you have got new lungs’. I think of her all the time.”
To join the organ donor register visit organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 1232323.