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Last Updated: Monday, 11 June 2007, 00:00 GMT 01:00 UK
'I was saved by lung transplant'
Bill Watson
Bill used to play in a band
The British Lung Foundation has launched "Breathe Easy Week" to highlight the suffering of lung disease patients in the UK.

The foundation has released the results of a survey that found many people with lung conditions are disillusioned with what they see as the low priority given to their care.

Bill Watson, 64, from Twickenham in London, was diagnosed with emphysema in his 50s after years of smoking.

His condition has led to him undergoing two transplants - firstly for a new lung, then a new kidney.

He now campaigns for the foundation to raise awareness of lung disease.

I couldn't walk around, and certainly not up the stairs - my wife had to wash and shave me
Bill Watson

Bill first noticed something was wrong after suffering a cold in 1994.

"It felt like someone had stretched an elastic band across my chest and pulled it tight," he said.

For 22 years he had been a brass player with the band of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, so having trouble catching his breath was an entirely new and frightening sensation that gave him panic attacks.

When his condition worsened, doctors diagnosed first bronchitis, then emphysema. His family was told he had five years to live.

Operation cancelled

"I had to give up work - I was a 'dial a ride' driver for people with disabilities - and I was worse off than half the people I was pushing around in wheelchairs.

"I used to want to tip them out of the wheelchairs and get in myself."

Eventually his breathing got so bad that he required oxygen 24 hours a day, and could do little more than sit or lie down and concentrate on breathing.

I had excellent service from the NHS, but not everyone is so fortunate
Bill Watson

"I couldn't walk around, and certainly not up the stairs - my wife had to wash and shave me."

He was referred for a lung transplant and eventually a donor was found, but there was devastation in store.

He said: "I was about 10 minutes away from the operation, and they came in and said that the donor's lung was in worse shape than mine, so the operation was off."

Fortunately, there was a second chance for Bill, and in 1995 he underwent a single lung transplant at Harefield Hospital, in London.

"I couldn't believe the difference it made straight away. I could walk again just a day after the operation."

Unfortunately the drugs given to him following the transplant damaged his kidney, and in 2003 he underwent a second transplant operation to receive a new organ from his wife.

Now he chairs one of the British Lung Foundation's Breathe Easy groups for other lung patients, and helps campaign for improvements to NHS services.

"I'm one of the lucky ones - I had excellent service from the NHS, but not everyone is so fortunate."

Lung patients 'let down by NHS'
10 Jun 07 |  Health
24 Sep 99 |  Medical notes

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