Justine Laymond will be the first double lung transplantee to take part in the Clipper Race. Signed up for Leg 8 New York to the UK, she will cross the Atlantic and log over 3,750 miles.
Justine’s first blog descibes her preparation to cross the Atlantic as crew of the Clipper round the world race. Check back in a few weeks to find out how she found her Atlantic crossing experience…
“Welcome to my world, one of fun and adventure – living and
breathing. Why am I different from most? Well, I have had a double-lung
transplant and know that every day I wake up breathing, really IS amazing to be
alive! I have had a very rocky journey with ill health starting in my early
20’s with two right lung collapses and lung surgery. Then enduring ten years of
immense pain on/off inside my chest until my left lung collapsed within this
period. Never mind people talking about having whirlwind romances – mine was a
whirlwind rapid decline of health. My left lung collapsed a further 13 times
and my right lung no longer functioned. I was diagnosed with the world’s rarest
lung disease called, Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (Lam). I spent 3 weeks in a coma,
and more time after awake on a life support machine, I call this my ‘dark
phase’. In this period, I also
needed to learn to how to walk again.
Since my transplant in 2006, I have set personal goals/challenges
to achieve every year I’m still living. I have been travelling on my
own to five countries visiting 14 cities in two months; competing in the Bupa Great
South Run 10 miles; learning new sports; and competing in British, European and
World Transplant Games. I have learnt sprinting, long jump, archery, badminton,
squash, volleyball, shot putt, discus and javelin.
Clipper 11-12 is by far
the biggest goal I am taking on as a complete novice. It fills me with fear, excitement and I know there will be
lows amongst the highs. It will test me both mentally and physically and I
am going to give my 100% to the challenge.
The training has been a rollercoaster of fun, great social,
tiredness, and physically demanding on my body. Sometimes I still get
breathless and have found some of the work a struggle but my determination and
attitude keeps me strong. I have experienced sea sickness on my last level in a
very bad way – whereby I was unwell for a few days and unable to move, eat, and
felt so weak – confined to a bunk. I was actually quite frightened and thought
maybe I wouldn’t be able to do this. But, know once you have turned the corner, you CAN get back up again. Eating a lump of cheese at 4am made me realise
my appetite had come back! I have since tried patches you wear behind the ears (to
assist sea sickness) on a refresher course and so far they seem the best option
for me. Also I said to myself, if I can get through 15 lung collapses and a three-week coma, then I can get through a few days being sea sick/feeling unwell at
I tried to even out my training levels, to get a good
recovery in-between each one. Some theory courses were needed on navigation,
sea rules, weather, identifying buoys/lights and so on. It was almost like being back
at school and having to revise or do homework in the evenings. For me it was like
learning a new language; trying to plot routes on charts was sometimes awkward
as my medications give me the shakes (so my bearings could be a tad out). I combined the
last two levels to get a feel for a longer duration onboard. The sleep deprivation was probably the
hardest on my body; it was almost like not being able to function. However, I wasn’t
the only person who felt this and it’s a challenge for even the fittest person. But,
you work as a team and help each other and give support…… and the conversations
when sleep deprived maybe too x-rated to print. I guess, our minds went a little
lala and we spoke freely.
My parents liked sailing when I was a child, but
I had no desire and didn’t enjoy or want to get involved – I would rather file
my nails. So, it’s quite bizarre as now I relish all and everything since my
new lease of life. I know it’s just an extension and not forever, so I am
grabbing at life and have done so much that prior would have seen me working
crazy hours, earning money with no life. Now, I am experiencing as much as I
can before my time ceases.
I was working part-time for my Dad when the
Clipper 11-12 came about and he was very understanding and flexible with my
training dates. However, when I first told my parents about wanting to join
the race, my Mum was horrified and my Dad thought I would never be able to
achieve this as it would be too much on my body/health. As time passed, and
constantly talking it through with Dad, and with
his knowledge and understanding of sailing and the oceans, he advised me what leg(s) if any I
should do – and the ones to definitely avoid. My Mum eventually came round and
both became proud of what I wanted to achieve.
The idea was founded by
Professor Stephen Wigmore, Clinical Director General Surgery and
Transplantation (Edinburgh) who wanted to get a team of Transplant Ambassadors
to each do a leg of the Clipper 11-12 Race to raise awareness of Organ Donation
across the globe. There are 10 Transplant Ambassadors in total consisting of
another three transplantees (kidneys), doctors, nurses, and a transplant
I am the first double-lung transplantee in the world to be involved in sailing a round the world race. I hope by doing this race
I will give hope and inspiration to others facing personal health challenges as
well as encouraging people to become Organ Donors. Obviously, this will be a
very personal goal for me and one I’m sure will bring many tears especially
when returning to the UK and seeing my parents again. I will be crossing the
Irish Sea when I will be six years post-transplant (July 9th), and
I will be very emotional thinking of my donor at this time.
All I know is when I set sail for the first part of the race
from New York to Nova Scotia and I step onboard, I am going to inhale a very
deep breath, exhale and smile.
Leg 8: New York – Nova Scotia – Ireland – Europe – UK
Justine will be racing in Leg 8 of the Clipper race, known as the ‘homeward bound’ leg. Made up of 4 individual races, the first takes you north from New York to Nova Scotia port in Canada.
Secondly the yachts compete in the great Atlantic dash. The route has a waypoint to avoid
any risk from ice and will takes the fleet close to the Flemish Cap, a fishing
ground made famous in the book and film, The Perfect Storm. From there it is a 2,000-mile race back towards Europe lasting around 2 weeks.
From Ireland, the fleet race over
the Irish Sea to finish at a port located in Northern Europe. For
the final race, it’s a 24 hour sprint back to the UK and a celebratory welcome. After 11 months at sea, the yachts return to find out who will be crowned the winner of Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race.
To find out more visit Clipper Round the World