Today Emma Jane Kingston should be celebrating her 21st birthday but she died earlier this summer from Cystic Fibrosis (CF). She needed a lung transplant but, like a staggering one in three CF people on the lung transplant waiting list, she didn't get one in time.
One of the frustrating elements of my illness, Cystic Fibrosis (CF), is that due to cross-infection risks I can never mix with people who also have CF. So as my health worsened last year and I started considering trying for a lung transplant I sought out people on twitter in the same scenario as me. And that’s where I met the indomitable Emma Jane Kingston or, in the world of twitter, @betseybunny.
We were both being assessed for a transplant simultaneously and we met for the first time at Harefield hospital's outpatient department - we both had our first assessment day on January 16th 2013. But whereas I could barely talk about it –hiding the deterioration of my health away from the majority of my friends for most of the six-month assessment process - she tweeted about it to all and sundry. I’d send her private messages on twitter saying I wasn’t ready to talk about it publicly and she’d berate me asking how could I cope with the stress in secret.
I’d say to my husband in private, sounding like every one of my 32 years, that young people talk about their life too openly on the internet. But I’ll concede that perhaps I was the one in the wrong. Using the web, Emma opened people’s eyes to the pain that people with invisible illnesses can suffer. She made people rethink their perceptions about what it is to be seriously ill, as despite her deteriorating lung function, she was outgoing, made the most of life, kissed boys, went to festivals, dyed her hair seemingly every month and did I mention she was absolutely stunning?
But then when she died, and when other online friends of mine have died, how do you grieve? You can tell your friends but it somehow doesn’t seem as serious to them as Emma wasn’t a physical presence in my life, she never popped over for a cup of tea or glass of wine in the sunshine.
Her family will never know the hundreds of people in the UK and around the world that have mourned her death. She may have been only an online presence in my life, but her death has been felt deeply by all those that followed her blog, read her tweets, messaged her on Facebook. So on behalf of all the tweeters who mourned your loss: Emma, you were respected, you were admired, you were loved.
I finally received my double lung transplant on 30th August this year. When I think of Emma, I'm overwhelmed with the thought that there, but for the grace of my donor, go I . Emma spent her last few months trying to raise awareness of organ donation, so please consider signing the donor register: www.organdonation.nhs.uk