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Love On The Transplant List: Filming with Kirstie

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Mel Beer Mel Beer | 11:30 UK time, Monday, 28 November 2011

Love On The Transplant List is really a love story about two extraordinary young people but it just so happens that one of them, 21-year-old Kirstie, has Cystic Fibrosis.

At Special Edition Films, we got in touch with Kirstie after seeing her blog 2ndchance@life to approach her about making the documentary for BBC Three about her experience.

As the producer, Kirstie made it very clear to me from the start that she wanted people to see what it was really like to be on the transplant waiting list.

She hoped that by showing the reality of her situation it would encourage more to sign up to the donor list.

In May 2011, when I first met her at home in East Devon, Kirstie had seriously bad, end stage lung disease where a transplant was her only chance of survival.

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Kirstie tries on her wedding dress

Kirstie was already on the transplant waiting list and had been told that she only had six months to live.

The documentary starts with Kirstie and her fiancé Stuart three weeks before their wedding day and although Kirstie was living at home at the time, she was on oxygen machines 24 hours a day to help her breathe, confined to a wheelchair and having constant IV's and pain medication.

She was barely able to stand for a couple of minutes let alone plan a wedding.

Our whole crew consisted of an assistant producer and me - during the ten weeks of filming, this amazing young couple battled everything to live their life to the full.

We followed Kirstie being hospitalised and fighting for her life two days before her wedding, even checking herself out of hospital early to make it down the aisle.

A couple of weeks after the wedding you'll see how Kirstie was still so thrilled to finally be married before the sudden shock of having to be taken by air ambulance to the transplant hospital in London, knowing that if she didn't get there right then, she would never survive the journey.

It was an extremely emotional time in this couple's life that as a filmmaker I couldn't help but be affected by.

Each time I filmed with Kirstie I was acutely aware that this could be the last time I would ever see her alive again.

Watching Stu talk about how it felt to be in a situation where the person you love is dying and there is nothing you can do to save them, is something I'll never forget.

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Kirstie's husband Stuart waits for news

Filming with Kirstie and her family when they were going through such a painful and highly emotional time put me in an unusual situation but I was very privileged to be able to follow their journey and they were extremely supportive.

Her drive and determination made it much easier to talk openly about difficult issues such as death and living with illness.

Choosing the music for the film was always going to be an extremely important element for me to help add a layer of emotion and try to reflect what everyone was feeling.

Throughout filming, I was constantly listening to albums and almost creating a soundtrack in my head as I saw the events unfold in front of me.

In the edit I found that if a track made me completely re-live the moment then that was the right one to use.

I quite often wouldn't listen out for relevant lyrics but literally watched through footage with headphones permanently attached and when a track had absolutely the right feel to it I would play it back and realise that actually the lyrics added to the scene.

Some of the tracks used in the film were personal to Kirstie and Stu, in particular the Take That track which was played as Kirstie walked down the aisle and I'm Coming Home by Diddy Dirty Money feat. Skylar Grey which Stu played to Kirstie when he was finally able to take her home from the hospital.

Mel Beer is the producer and director of Love On The Transplant List.

Love On The Transplant List is on BBC Three on Monday, 28 November at 9pm.

To read a post by Kirstie, please see the BBC Three blog.

For further programme times, please visit the upcoming episodes page.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    - I found this story so moving. My mother had a lung transplant at the same place Kirstie did. My mum kinda also went through the same thing too 'breathing difficulties, not being able to get around much ect'. Although my mother sadly passed away last year, this prog reminded me of how much I admire my mother for what she has been though. So, I really do admire Kirstie because I saw how my mum was. It just makes me so happy that there are such positive people out there.

  • Comment number 2.

    An incredibly powerful documentary Mel. Sensitive, humorous, moving, heartbreaking, uplifting. At 39, I have CF - I'm well: a lung function of 35% but not yet on oxygen - but I know a lung transplant in the future is a very real prospect. My sister also had CF and was on the waiting list for a new pair of lungs, but sadly her call never came. She was 28 when she died. My husband and I sat and watched your film with tears streaming down our faces, but Kirstie and Stuart strike us as an incredible young couple and I bet you feel privileged to have met them. A fantastic film; thank you for showing what living with CF is really like.

  • Comment number 3.

    Thank you so much for your comments. I do feel extremely honoured to have been able to film Kirstie and Stuart's extraordinary journey and I am so happy to see how well things are going for them right now. I am very sorry to hear about your sister and hope beyond everything that people watching the documentary will be moved to join the donor list. I wish you and your husband much happiness for the future!

  • Comment number 4.

    I too am on the "list" waiting for a transplant.The documentary gave a good idea of what it's like to wait for the call.The highs and lows of the "no go calls", and showed in the end what it could be like.Hope it encourages more people to sign up as donors.Thanks to Kirstie and Stu for allowing us into this stressfull time in their lives.Thanks also to the donor and their family.

  • Comment number 5.

    Mel, thank you for a brilliant programme. Kirstie and Stuart were amazing and the programme offered a real insight into the emotional turmoil of waiting for a transplant. Programmes like this do so much for transplantation and have such a positive impact on potential organ donation rates, which is great. We hear so much now about opting in and out, and all the heated debate about what is right and wrong, when a true life insight has much more of an impact on whether people want to donate their deceased loved ones organs. In light of this, why can't this programme, and ones like it, be shown on BBC1, to catch a bigger audience and change the hearts and minds of people who might have to donate in the future.

  • Comment number 6.

    What a wonderful documentary. I'm so glad that the outcome for Kirstie was a positive one. Watching the story, made me realize the real need for organ donors, and the documentary has spurred me on to join the donors register which I did today! Thank you Kirstie and Stuart for sharing your journey, you can do great work to encourage people to join the register.

  • Comment number 7.

    I really enjoyed this. Well done to all involved. There was some lovely music used. Is it possible to have a list of the soundtrack?

  • Comment number 8.

    A remarkable young couple whose difficult story was told with honesty by a talented production team. This slice of real life drama should make everyone think about the true nature of love and commitment.

  • Comment number 9.

    This is such a touching story... and based on the tweets I have seen about it, it truly helps change people's minds about donating! I wish the film would be shown on BBC America because I'd love to see it!

  • Comment number 10.

    A very well produced film on such a distressing disease, such a brave couple. I really liked the choice of music, seemed so very appropiate and differant.

  • Comment number 11.

    Hello all, thanks for posting your comments here. bethlette412 (#7) - Mel saw your comment and has sent us the tracklistings - 29 tracks! - so they've now been added to the Love On The Transplant List programme page.
    Thanks

  • Comment number 12.

    We want to know what happens to Kirstie. You left us hanging.....please make another programme to tell us what happens to this beautiful couple.

  • Comment number 13.

    What a brave family and an extremely emotional programme, well done everyone and I sincerely hope more people will sign up to the donor list.

    Do it now everyone

    http://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/ukt/how_to_become_a_donor/registration/consent.jsp

  • Comment number 14.

    What a great program. I thought i would be crying all the way through. But she was so brave and determined, that i didn't, until the end. What a great, brave lady and family too. Thanks for sharing your story with us. Good luck

  • Comment number 15.

    Thanks again Kirsty for inspiring our daughter. We didn't quite make it http://blog.aisling.co/2011/12/our-beautiful-daughter.html

 

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