“Today is the day I never thought I’d see”

Linzi Saunders

Published on 08 July 2019

She says: “Today has been amazing, it really is the day I never thought I'd see after everything I've been through.

"But in many ways this is not the end, it's just the beginning as I'm now planning on going ahead and doing my MA here at the University."

The Fine Art student has been through more in her short life than most people could imagine.

Shortly after she was born, Linzi was diagnosed with two different complex types of leukaemia.

Medics in Newcastle decided to try new research medication, with Linzi becoming the first patient to undergo the type of treatment.

It was then decided that a bone marrow transplant would be needed and Linzi’s family were tested to see if they would be possible donors.

Her brother, James, proved a perfect match but, despite a successful transplant, the new treatment Linzi was receiving began affecting her heart and she went on to develop cardiomyopathy by the age of eight.

It was a condition doctors could not ignore and while still a pupil at Ryhope Junior School in Sunderland, Linzi was told she would need a new heart.

Five weeks after shew was put on the NHS Organ Donor Register, a new heart was found. Linzi went into Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital on December 4, 2005, for the operation.

While mum Michelle, 50, and dad James, 53, waited by her bedside, Linzi astounded doctors by making a speedy recovery, returning back to her Ryhope home on December 23.

Refusing to be limited by her condition, Linzi continued with her school work and impressed everyone with her fighting spirit.

But in 2014 Linzi developed the Norovirus which had a huge impact on her already weak kidneys. It was a blow doctors could not ignore as Linzi’s kidneys were only operating at 42% due to the treatment she had received as a baby.

Family members were tested to see if they could be suitable donors. In a bizarre twist of fate, the mum-in-law of one of Linzi’s sisters also agreed to be tested - and turned out to be an ideal match.

On September 21, 2017, Linzi underwent her third transplant at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital.

Linzi said: “When you are ill, you are just thinking about the present, the future just doesn’t exist.

“Every day is a blessing and you just hang onto those moments.

“So I never could have believed that one day I would be standing here, graduating from the University of Sunderland.

“If you ask my parents they will tell you I’m not the kind of person that gives up easily, so I think they’re pretty proud today.”

Linzi says she is now planning to go on and study an MA in Fine Art at the University of Sunderland.

As part of her undergraduate work she even recreated a photograph of herself sitting in hospital as she recovered from heart surgery.

She added: “Ultimately, I would like to go on and teach at lecturer level but, for the time being, I’m just taking one step at a time.”