Double-lung transplant recipient's emotional journey
THEY were told he had only three weeks to live, so when Colin Simpson finally received a new pair of lungs on March 31, 2015, wife Cheryl had to assure everyone it was not an April Fools' joke.
The only male figure left in the Simpson family, Colin, is on the mend 18 months after undergoing a double-lung transplant operation.
It's evident it's been a long, emotional journey for the family as Cheryl flips through the photo album she put together.
The album begins in May 2009 when Colin came home from work feeling lethargic.
By the next morning he was on a hospital bed hooked up to a ventilator.
"Colin had come home after working for a week in Sydney and he had no energy," Cheryl said.
"Long story short, the next morning he was in Coffs Harbour Base Hospital after being rushed to the emergency unit overnight.
"They told me they needed to ventilate him, otherwise we would have lost him."
Colin was diagnosed with pneumonia and told he had just a 5% chance of survival.
His lungs were ventilated for a month and he was sent home. But Colin's health continued to deteriorate, so he was sent to the Prince of Wales Hospital for an open-lung biopsy.
It was then discovered he had idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a chronic condition with no known cause characterised by persistent scarring of the lungs.
It was at this point that Cheryl, who was a nurse, handed in her letter of resignation so she could care for Colin.
"I'd been a nurse for 40years but it was a no-brainer. I couldn't leave him, so I sat there and emailed my resignation to my boss," Cheryl said.
In 2015, Colin was placed on the organ transplant waiting list.
Three weeks later he received the call there was a set of lungs available and the couple went off to Sydney for the operation.
Unfortunately, Colin didn't receive his new set of lungs.
"He was fully prepared and ready to go on the operation table when they realised the donor lungs were full of emphysema," said Cheryl.
The family received the devastating news Colin was expected to have only weeks to live - but just in time, a new set of donor lungs became available.
The operation was a success.
"It's an absolutely wonderful, selfless gift. We are so grateful. Heaven doesn't need our organs, but living on Earth, we certainly do," said Cheryl.
"It's a hard journey, but you've got to stay positive."
Every morning, Colin takes a lung function test, a blood sugar test and his anti-rejection medications.
Life may now be very different for the couple, but they have already planned a much-needed holiday.
The last photo in the album is of Colin, arm draped around Cheryl, in front of their caravan.
Reminiscing on their journey, Cheryl said despite the circumstances, there were some stellar moments - like when Colin had a special visit from the Duchess of York.
"After his lung transplant, the head of the ward said the Duchess of York was coming in for a visit and asked Colin if she could speak to him.
"It was absolutely beautiful. You can see the look on his face in the photo, like he's an absolute rock star," Cheryl said.
Cheryl and Colin are now passionate advocates for organ donation.
"It broke my heart to think somebody had to die for Colin to stay alive, but now I always remember that this person has just given Colin such a beautiful gift."