A FIVE-year-old Blackburn girl has become the youngest person in the world to have a double lung transplant.

At one time her parents were told she would not live to see her fourth birthday.

Mariam Imran's mum has spoken of the heartbreaking moment they were told their daughter had only months to live.

But they said despair turned to joy as Mariam battled on to defy the odds after a successful transplant.

Her parents said they were telling her story to encourage more donors from ethnic minorities to come forward.

Her mum Faaiza Dar, 25, said: "When you look at her you'd never think that she's recently had a double lung transplant. The only word to describe everything is wow'."

Mariam, of Whalley Range, Blackburn, was three months old when she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a hereditary disease that affects the respiratory and digestive systems in which lungs become covered in sticky mucus, and breathing is difficult.

Last year Mariam's condition had deteriorated to the extent that she needed oxygen every day.

Her parents were taken into a room in hospital and told by doctors that they did not expect Mariam to see her fourth birthday.

They said her condition, the lack of donors, and Mariam's small size, would hinder her survival chances.

Her mum said: "I was so scared. I was shaking when they said it and I cried a lot."

Mariam was placed on the waiting list last summer, and four months later a suitable donor was found.

She underwent an eight-hour operation at London's Great Ormond Street Hospital. She spent four weeks in recovery, before being airlifted to the Royal Blackburn Hospital, where she stayed until mid-April.

Nine months after the operation, Mariam has now returned to St Michael and St John's Primary School, in Whalley Range.

Faaiza said: "I can't imagine what it was like for the family who donated the lungs.

"It must have been a very hard decision, but I want to say a massive thank you.

"Mariam is quite well at the moment, but we have to be very careful with her.

"She's just had a cough, so we've gone for X-rays to check everything is okay.

"We have to make sure everything is clean and adjust everything in our lives. She has a pet rabbit she isn't really allowed to hold because of the germs, and she can't go swimming at the moment. We have to be careful with her."

Faaiza said she was "so proud" of her daughter.

She said: "When you look at her, you'd never think that she's recently had a double lung transplant.

"The only word to describe everything is wow'.

"I still wrap her up in cotton wool and she tells me off.

"She didn't used to speak very much because she got out of breath easily, but now she's picking up on everything and full of life.

"She's playing and running about, and as cheeky as ever."

While organs are effectively colour blind, the chances of finding a match are much higher if the recipient and the donor are from the same ethnic background.

Faaiza is now calling for members of the Asian community to come forward as donors to fill a rapidly growing donor gap' amongst ethnic minority groups. She said: "People from ethnic minorities especially need to have the issues around organ donations highlighted."

Black and Asian people are three times more likely to need a kidney transplant than people with other ethnic origins. But these groups make up less than 2per cent of deceased donors and, subsequently, transplant patients can wait twice as long for a match.

Tamsin May, of UK Transplant, said the charity had been working hard to dispel the myth that the Islamic, Hindu and Sikh faiths forbade organ donation.

She said: "There is a shortage of organ donors of all ethnic backgrounds, but the problem is particularly acute among the black and south Asian communities.

"We need people to talk about their wishes for organ donation and join the register."

Salim Mulla, secretary of Lancashire Council of Mosques, urged donors to come forward.

His wife, Sayeeda, has been awaiting a kidney transplant for more than a year.

He said: "I have consulted with Islamic scholars and they said if it is a life- threatening situation, then it is alright to accept an organ from someone else. By that logic I cannot see anything wrong in being an organ donor as far as your faith is concerned.

"I know first-hand that there is a shortage of donors among the Muslim community in East Lancashire, and across the whole of the UK. We desperately need people to become organ donors."

You can find out more about organ donation and join the NHS Organ Donor Register by telephoning 0845 60 60 400, or visiting www.uktrans plant.org.uk