A STUDENT who had her life saved three times thanks to transplant surgery is ready to graduate after a remarkable four years.

Linzi Saunders was waiting for a kidney transplant when she began her studies at the University of Sunderland.

Now, having had her third operation, the 23-year-old is preparing to graduate with a Masters in fine art, during a pandemic.

“I started university while waiting for a kidney transplant, thinking back I honestly don’t know how I did it," she said.

Struck down by two complex types of leukaemia at just 18-months, doctors gave Linzi just a 40 per cent chance of survival.

She was the first patient to undergo treatment with new research medication and then needed a bone marrow transplant from her brother, James.

Despite a successful transplant, the new treatment began affecting her heart and she developed cardiomyopathy by the age of eight.

While still a pupil at Ryhope Junior School, in Sunderland, Linzi was told she would need a new heart.

Put onto the NHS Organ Donor Register, she waited five weeks before being told that a donor heart had been 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, and returned to her Ryhope home on December 23.

In 2014 Linzi developed the norovirus which had a huge impact on her already weak kidneys and needed another transplant, from the mother-in-law of one of her sisters.

On September 21, 2017, just as she started at university, Linzi underwent her third transplant, again at the Freeman.

Today she is taking the pandemic in her stride – saying she has had to shield on numerous occasions already – though she has missed her friends and studio space.

The Northern Echo:

She said: “This year I’ve mostly worked from home due to being a vulnerable adult.

"In all honesty, I don’t think it was a bad thing I was in my own surroundings.

"It boosted my confidence and made me feel more comfortable with my unique painting style.

“I based my final exhibition on the current situation including myself and friends in a large scale mural-style painting.

"I wanted to create my interpretation of the pandemic while adding a touch of positivity.”