Justine Laymond died on December 7 after she contracted coronavirus, 15 years after a double-lung transplant saved her life. She wanted to live her life to make her donor proud
A double lung transplant patient who knew she’d die if she caught coronavirus posted on social media to say she was scared moments before being put on a ventilator.
Justine Laymond died on December 7 aged just 48 after she contracted Covid – 15 years after a double lung transplant saved her life.
She spoke to the Mirror in April last year as the pandemic began and the country was put into lockdown.
She said she knew it would be “game over” for her if she caught it and hoped others would follow the rules to keep vulnerable people safe.
She had written a list of “goodbye calls” to make to her family and close friends as she knew going into hospital would mean she was unlikely to come home
“I’m so frightened. I know if I do get it, I will die,” she said. “I would fight for my life if I did get it, but I know it will kill me.”
Justine, from Rayleigh, Essex, added: “I’ve got my wishes written out. If we have to call an ambulance, I’ve got a list of people to call to say goodbye to. I’ve got an emergency bag packed.
“I know if I get this I will die, that’s the reality.”
Justine was just hours from dying back in July 2006 when she fought back from being in a three-week coma, spending weeks on life support and enduring 15 lung collapses before she was deemed unwell enough to be put on the transplant list.
Her life was eventually saved when she received the healthy lungs of a 42-year-old man and she was given another chance at life.
She spent the next 15 years living her life to the fullest and was well known as a bright, larger than life character who would go out of her way to help others, also sometimes known by the nickname Red due to her ever-changing hair colour.
Justine competed in the Transplant Games, travelled the world and even took part in the Clipper Round-the-World Yacht Race, always making people aware of organ donation.
She would often say she wanted to make her donor proud.
Her boyfriend of eight years Tom Hipperson spoke to the Mirror in the days after her death.
“She said she always wanted to live her life in the public eye,” he said.
“She wanted her donor’s family to see that she was doing amazing things with the gift that she had been given and she had used it to the best of her abilities.”
Justine and Tom caught Covid and went through a week of symptoms at home together, but while Tom, 46, started to feel better, Justine was not recovering.
The hospital advised her to up the medication she took daily to stop her lungs from being rejected, but later in the week, she was told to call 999.
An ambulance quickly arrived although Tom was unable to go to the hospital with her due to Covid restrictions, they kept in touch over the phone.
“She managed to phone me and said she loved me, she took the time to message her family and friends and then she went on the ventilator,” he said.
From her bed, Justine first posted on Facebook to let people know she was in hospital.
She said: “I’ve been rushed to hospital in the early hours, oxygen was 30. I’m on CPAP machine and fighting, but admittedly I’m frightened.”
But just two days later she made her last heartbreaking post: “I’m struggling too much. I’m going on a ventilator now. I love you all.
“Please keep my memories alive. I hope I wake up. But my lungs are so bad inside. Love to all. Thank you for your friendships x”
Tom added that Justine’s lung transplant had given her 15 more years of life, but they had both hoped it would be so much longer.
“It’s a shame that covid ended it all, we talked about getting old together and what we would do.
“For this to take her away after being so careful for so long.
“We were the ones still wearing our masks and using the hand gel and encouraging people to get tested.
“It’s so unfair that she caught it.”
On 20 May 2020, the law around organ donation in England was changed to allow more people to save more lives.
There is now “presumed consent” but families are still approached before donation goes ahead.
- 80% of people are willing to donate their organs, yet only 39% say they’ve shared their decision.
- Nine in 10 families would support organ donation if they knew it was what their loved one wanted. This figure falls to around half when a decision is not known.
- To find out more, or to register your decision, visit organdonation.nhs.uk
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.