by Martin Jefferies
Brave young Westgate woman Jessica Wales is facing a race against time as a host of celebrities join a last-minute web campaign to find her a double lung donor.
The 20-year-old (pictured right, photograph courtesy Sarah Milne), who suffers from cystic fibrosis, has been waiting for a transplant since 2005 and has already defied doctors by outliving a terrifying initial prognosis of just two years.
But her health has deteriorated rapidly since taking part in the adidas Women’s 5k Challenge last month, during which she raised £1,500 for charity.
She spent 12 days at King’s College Hospital, London, where her breathing was supported by a ventilator. During the crisis, her friends said she was fighting for every breath.
Her tragic story has inspired a string of celebrities, including TV star Jonathan Ross, comedians David Baddiel and Matthew Horne and Formula 1 racing driver Rubens Barrichello.
Other famous faces hoping for a full recovery include singer Beverley Knight, Britain’s Got Talent finalists Diversity and the Prime Minister’s wife, Sarah Brown.
They have all helped spread the word since reading about Jessica’s plight on Twitter. Campaigners believe the social networking tool has helped reach four million people in a single week.
Campaign organiser Sarah Milne said: "[Jessica's] sheer stubbornness is what's keeping her alive at the moment. Every breath is like the end of a marathon."
Audio: Hear Sarah Milne talking about Jessica Wales's plight
Emily Thackray, who chairs the transplant charity Live Life Then Give Life (LLTGL), said: "It’s galling to know that a whole new life could lie ahead of Jess but that people’s apathy towards organ donation might mean she never gets to experience it."
Of the 8,000 Britons on transplant lists, three will die every day waiting for a suitable donor, according to LLTGL. Around a quarter of the UK population will help others after their death by donating organs.
To join the Organ Donor Register, visit the UK transplant website or phone 0300 123 2323.