Three people die each day in the UK while waiting for a transplant. Reporter KELLY SMALE speaks to a Sidcup man who was given a second chance at life after receiving a new heart.
ON AUGUST 1 last year Kevin May was given just a year to live unless he was given a heart transplant.
The 51-year-old had suffered from an irregular heart beat for 10 years before having a stroke in 2000, which led to chronic heart failure.
On August 30 he was admitted to Papworth Hospital for a transplant but things took a turn for the worse and due to various complications he did not have the operation.
He spent six weeks in intensive care and at one stage was given just two days to live, but managed to pull through.
Mr May, of Lamorbey Close, said: "Before my transplant I was very breathless and struggled to walk 50 yards. I had massive water retention and got worse and worse.
"You have a fight against time."
The father-of-two added: "First of all I got this amazing sense of guilt. You know the family is under severe pressure which is down to you.
"I took it as a personal challenge. 'I'm not going to die, I'm Kevin May, superhero'.
"I'm mentally strong. I had the best care in the world and the best family. But I was still going to die if there was no organ."
On November 2 he was put on the emergency donor list and 13 days later he underwent an eight hour operation for a new heart.
Mr May told News Shopper: "I was never scared of the operation. I was looking forward to it because it was my new life."
He added: "Now it's unbelievable. I exercise every day. I feel healthy, vibrant and full of life.
"I'm a 51-year-old but like a teenager with grey hair. I had forgotten how good life was."
Mr May takes 14 tablets a day to prevent his body from rejecting the heart.
He said: "I feel massively grateful to the donor's family.
"The gesture they have done is not just for me but for my family and friends as well.
"I think about the donor a lot. On Christmas day we were having the best Christmas of our lives. But there must have been a donor family having the worst."
Mr May has set up organsequallife.co.uk to educate people about organ donation and to encourage them to sign up to the organ donor register.
He said: "Don't think it won't happen to you or someone you love.
"Sign up. It costs nothing. It's not just saving a person's life it's their whole family."
In 2008 his 18-year-old nephew, Harry Potter actor Rob Knox, was murdered in Sidcup.
Mr May now gives presentations to schools and clubs emphasising the importance of organ donation and the consequences of choice.
He explains to young people that carrying a knife is a choice which can have tragic consequences.
Mr May will be competing in the British Transplant Games in August and hopes to return to rugby at the beginning of the next season.
More than 10,000 people are currently waiting for a transplant in the UK.
For more information and to sign up to the organ donor register, visit organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 1232323.
You can also sign up to the organ donor register through Mr May's website, organsequallife.co.uk