A councillor who says he would have been unable to carry out his duties without a transplant has urged people to become organ donors.
Mike Exton, 75, of Churchill Road, Stamford, has had two kidney transplants in the last 30 years.
His first, in 1991, ended months of dialysis and allowed him to spend the next two decades working across Lincolnshire as a county, district and town councillor.
The new kidney failed in 2009 and Coun Exton spent six years waiting for another transplant. But he finally got the call in October this year, and is once more free from the shackles of dialysis.
Coun Exton, a former fireman, decided to speak out about organ donation after learning that the Welsh Government has changed the law so all adults will automatically become donors unless they have chosen to opt out before they die.
This is a departure from the current law in England, where people have to opt in.
Coun Exton believes the Welsh law should also be applied in the rest of the UK. He said: “I can’t see why one part of the UK does it and the rest doesn’t. The Government should take it on.”
After his first transplant, Coun Exton went from spending many hours each week hooked up to a dialysis machine to living a normal life once more.
“It was so time consuming,” he said. “It was terrible. You just couldn’t do anything with your life. I was desperately waiting for the call and it came out of the blue.
“You just think ‘thank God for that’. There’s always the worry that it’s not going to work, but the cross-matching is very good.
“For me it worked straight away. In those 18 years (until the kidney failed) I was involved in Stamford Town Council, South Kesteven District Council and Lincolnshire County Council.
“It enabled me to do all those things that I wouldn’t have been able to do. I was mayor of Stamford and chairman of the district council.
“It’s been a lifesaver.”
The British Heart Foundation has welcomed the policy change in Wales although some faith groups have expressed concerns. The Government has so far shown no sign it will follow suit, so in the meantime Coun Exton has urged people to sign up to the organ donation register and give the ultimate gift.
“As the surgeon said to me, a kidney transplant hasn’t extended my life span but it’s given me a better quality of life.
“It comes to the fore at Christmas time, when people are out and accidents happen. You get drink drivers who don’t think about what they are doing.
“The more people on the register, the more people’s lives can be saved.”
According to NHS Blood and Transplant, 82 people in Lincolnshire are waiting for a transplant, 30 have been waiting longer than two years and nine have been waiting longer than five years. In Leicestershire 138 people are waiting, with 43 waiting longer than two years and nine longer than five years. Specific figures for Rutland are not available.
To join the NHS Organ Donor Register go to organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 123 23 23.