Two New Lungs, One New Life

Beating the odds is something of a specialty for Justine Laymore, ocean racer and lymphangioleiomyomatosis survivor. Web Extra from our August 2012 issue.

Justine Laymore

Beating the odds is something of a specialty for Justine Laymore. Six years ago the artist from the U.K. was diagnosed with lymphangioleiomyomatosis, better known as LAM, a disease that attacks the lungs and kidneys. LAM is so rare that only 1 in 1 million people are ever diagnosed with it. Since her diagnosis, she has battled hundreds of cysts and 15 lung collapses, which put her into a coma and near death.

“When I had three collapses within one week was when I said goodbye to my family and friends,” Laymore said.

Then she received a rare double-lung transplant, or as she calls it, a miracle. With two new lungs from an anonymous donor, she beat the odds and battled back to life. With a new lease on life, she has tried to take on a new challenge every year. This year’s challenge will be her greatest yet, sailing in the eighth stage of the World Clipper Race, an exclusive around-the-world competition aboard stripped-down 68-foot sailboats.

Leg 8, which is the final leg of the race, will take Laymore from New York to Nova Scotia, Ireland, the Netherlands and finally home to the U.K. All in all it is a 4,000-mile trip with 22 days at sea.

When asked what the toughest part of the trip will likely be, Laymore suggested that the hardest part may already be behind her, packing her medicine.

“I’ve had to take 1,225 tablets and organize them by day and week,” Laymore said with a laugh. “I’ve had to place them all in freezer bags and dry bags. I figure if I can organize all those I can take on the Atlantic.”

While she is positive and upbeat, she faces real concerns in the form of seasickness. LAM has left her with virtually no immune system, making her more susceptible to seasickness, which would prevent her medication from working properly. If that were to happen, she could once again be fighting for her life.
"It's exciting and scary and will be a challenge, but I'm up for it," Laymore said. "When I'm finished, I'll take a deep breath and say, wow."

Follow Justine's journey: justinedoublelungs.blogspot.co.uk