CYSTIC fibrosis sufferer Kari-Lee Birrell got the best possible birthday present yesterday - the double lung transplant that should save her life.
The transplant took place in the Prince Charles Hospital on Ms Birrell's 25th birthday, which was not lost on her family.
"It signifies a new birth for her," mum Rhyl Venning said.
Ms Birrell's family and her husband of six months, Tom, had been waiting anxiously for a phone call offering the transplant since her health started to deteriorate rapidly 18 months ago.
She was born with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder affecting the lungs and digestive system, but has never allowed the disease to slow her down.
Mrs Birrell travelled overseas and was studying to become a paramedic until her health took a turn for the worse.
On Wednesday, the Daily reported on Ms Birrell's battle with illness.
She had been in and out of the Prince Charles Hospital and her planned April wedding was moved forward to December last year as her doctors were concerned she might not make it.
Now, thanks to a stranger's decision to be an organ donor, the determined young woman will be given another chance.
Mrs Venning said her family could not thank the donor and his or her family enough.
"We have been told in about a year we can write a thank-you card," she said.
"One of the other people we know who had a transplant has a shirt which says, 'my donor, my hero'. It is true."
Ms Birrell had only just returned home on Wednesday morning, after spending two weeks in hospital, when the family got the call.
It was the third time they had been alerted to a prospective transplant - the previous two failed to work out.
At 6am yesterday, the family was reassured that this time it was for real and Ms Birrell was wheeled into surgery at 6.30am.
Mrs Venning said the surgery lasted about "six or seven hours" and the doctor had been very happy with the result.
"People have been praying for her all over the Sunshine Coast and America," she said.
Ms Birrell will remain in intensive care for several days. The family was hoping to speak to her late last night.
A fundraising page has been set up for the young couple and to raise awareness of cystic fibrosis.
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