A GRADUATE who almost died from a rare disease is giving thanks to those who saved her life.
Claire Lavery fell ill with a bug while on holiday in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, with boyfriend Mark Jones, a 24-year-old PE teacher.
But as he recovered, Claire deteriorated and she was admitted to Sunderland Royal Hospital.
The 23-year-old, from Seaham, spent six months on its wards, including intensive care.
At one stage Mark, parents Dawn, 52, and Steve, 53, and other family were called in as doctors gave her just a five per cent chance of survival.
It is thought the bug sparked a flare-up of suspected Behcet’s Disease, similar to Crohn’s, which may have been present since she was born.
She was due to undergo her 15th operation today to deal with a fistula – where internal organs not normally joined are connected – and strengthen her abdominal wall.
It is hoped her condition can now be controlled through medication.
On Saturday, she watched a Seaham Rugby Club charity match.
Organisers of the game, which saw the over-35s beat the younger club members 24-23, raised more than £1,000 to help Claire.
“It’s amazing what can be achieved by a bunch of lads throwing a ball about in the torrential rain,” said club chairman Neil Roseberry.
“There were three or four clubs represented on the field today, as well as several lads who pulled a rugby shirt on for the very first time, but they all forgot their differences for the day and raised serious money for a fantastic cause.”
Claire has insisted the money goes to the hospital as thanks for not only saving her, but turning times she was dreading, such as Christmas and New Year on a ward, in to happy memories.
She said: “In ITU, the staff were unbelievable, they were fantastic.
“They had things like a Wii for people in the unit to use in physio and I used that during my rehabilitation. That was donated by somebody and I want them to have more.
“The care they gave me has given me the motivation.”
Claire, who was first admitted to hospital in October 2009 and spent time on ward B25, plans to complete the Great North Run and C2C bike ride to raise cash for the Royal.
The sports therapy graduate, who is considering a career as a physiotherapist or occupational therapist, will use the recovery time from this week’s surgery to plan her wedding.