An offshore worker from Inverness was told he had the lungs of a 90-year-old man before receiving a transplant.
John Wallace was 47 when a work medical screening led to him being diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF), a degenerative disease of the lungs where the air sacs weld together with scarring.
This Organ Donation Awareness Week he is telling his story to encourage people to become donors and save lives.
John, now 55, told how in May 2014 he was fit and relatively healthy, suffering only from asthma.
He said: “I went for a standard offshore medical and was told I had the lungs of a 90-year-old – a bit of a shock to me at the age of 47.
“I immediately contacted my GP and very quickly was sent for x-rays, scans and tests.”
One donor can change the lives of eight people
He continued: “After a year of that the breathlessness was such that I was on ambulatory oxygen, a carry tank with nose tubes, for walking and exercising.
“That then progressed to having an oxygen generator at home and being confined to the house due to the amount of oxygen required.
“I was then admitted to Raigmore Hospital when the generator did not supply what I required.”
His consultant in Inverness spoke to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, the closest hospital that carries out lung transplants, daily to push his case for transplant.
He said: “When I got the call I was transported down by air ambulance for a set of lungs, only to be told they were diseased. I remained in the Freeman and got a call two days later only to find one lung was damaged and I needed two.
Nine-hour double lung transplant
He was put on a machine that takes blood out, oxygenates it, and returns it back to the patient.
After a week his surgeon performed a nine-hour lung transplant.
He spent 30 days recovering in hospital before he was discharged.
As he grew in strength, he became a regular competitor at the Transplant Games.
He continued: “You are told very little about your donor to retain anonymity but contact can be made with their family through the hospital transplant coordinator.
“My wife and I sent my donor family medals from both Birmingham and Lignano transplant games, the European games venue.
“They replied that they were delighted that their son had returned to Italy as a part of me, and that both medals were hanging from his photo in the sitting room.”
He continued: “Personally, since the transplant, I have got married, I have grandchildren and I have seen the children succeed in their chosen professions.
“In this week of Organ Donation Awareness Week please take the time to register your decision online and, most importantly, have the discussion with your family letting them know your decision.
“Remember one donor can change the lives of eight people and that of their families.”
To find out more about organ donation, including how to register your decision, please go to organdonation.scot.