By Tom Bevan www.thisisexeter.co.uk
THROUGHOUT his childhood John Mordue's prognosis was grim, yet he continually defied the odds and lived long enough to become one of the country's first heart and lung transplant patients in his 20s.
Nearly a quarter of a century later he has lived a full and happy life and says he cherishes every day spent with his family.
"I don't play the lottery as I have already won it," the 49-year-old, of Pinhoe, said.
But he knows that others aren't as lucky.
That is why he has spoken today in support of the Echo's Lifesavers campaign that is encouraging anyone who would be willing to accept a transplant to sign up to the organ donor register and consider giving one.
He said: "I always think about how lucky I am and I have beaten the odds throughout my life. When I was born they did not expect me to go to school. In the 1960s the treatment was very poor and the prognosis for children with cystic fibrosis was mortality.
"When I made it to a toddler they didn't expect me to make it to secondary school.
"Then they said I would die as a young man. If I had not had the transplant I would have been dead by 26 or 27 but I just kept hanging in there."
John was a frequent patient at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London and at the time of being offered the transplant had been told there was no further treatment available.
Describing his quality of life at the time he said: "You adapt and get used to it but don't really see the problems that other people do. Things were really tough in hindsight. It took ages to get dressed and having a bath was a bit of a nightmare."
John waited over a year for a match to become available. The date was November 18, 1987, and it was a night he will never forget.
It was in the days before mobile phones and John carried a pager with him wherever he went.
He said: "I remember poignantly and vividly that this was the night of the Kings Cross fire that killed 31 people.
"I had no change for the phone box and was in a mild panic to try to get some change from someone. I then went back home and waited.
"There were no ambulances available in the whole of London so one got sent from Cambridge. As I was waiting we were getting news of this horrible tragedy.
"While I was waiting for something that would give me the gift of life, there were families all across London being told they had lost a loved one. It really brought home to me the cost of a new life."
John was 26 at the time and described the initial improvement as "slow but steady."
He said: "I was out just before Christmas, but it took nearly a year for me to get fit. Previously I had not been able to walk and had no real muscle in my legs. My breathing was now fine but it was the rest of my body I had to sort out.
"If I had not had the transplant I would have died and would not have had the life and enjoyed all the things I have done in the last 20 years.
"I would not have got married, gone to university or had two wonderful boys.
"It is very hard to put into words and it is very brave of the donor family to give their consent. In such a very traumatic time for them and to do something so unselfish and think of someone else is truly remarkable and no amount of thanks will ever repay that.
"It has enabled me to have a life and give a life to my two boys, Jack and Liam."
John moved to Exeter with his wife shortly after the operation. As for the future he said he had no idea how long he would remain healthy. He said: "I was expecting five years and thought it was remarkable when I reached ten – and so did they.
"It has now been 24 years and I appreciate and bless every day. I hope it will be a lot longer but I will have to wait and see how long. I was one of the first in the country to have the heart and lung transplant so I have nothing really to compare it to.
"Life is uncertain. You never know if you or someone you love will in the future need a transplant to save their lives – so really think about being a donor. Give hope and life to the people that need it."
He said he had been following the campaign closely and paid tribute to the young CF patient Kirstie Mills whose plea for people to help give her a second chance of life inspired the campaign.
"She has done remarkably well and seems a very courageous girl and I am sure she would do very well with a transplant.
"Sadly there are more people waiting for donors than there are donors and that is why campaigns like this are so important. I don't play the lottery as in my opinion I have already won it. I just hope that my stories, and others like it, will encourage more people to sign up to be donors."
To find out more and to join the NHS Organ Donor Register: call 03001232323, go to www.organdonation.nhs.uk or text SAVE to 84118. If you sign up please give the marketing code for this campaign ECHO.
“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Register to be an organ and tissue donor & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
In the United States, be sure to find out how to register in your state at organdonor.gov (Go to top right to select your state)
In Great Britain, register at NHS Organ Donor Register
In Australia, register at Australian Organ Donor Register
Your generosity can save or enhance the lives of up to fifty people with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants (see allotransplantation). One tissue donor can help by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves
Has your life been saved by an organ transplant? "Pay it forward" and help spread the word about the need for organ donation - In the U.S. another person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 11 minutes and 18 people die each day waiting for an organ or tissue transplant. Organs can save lives, corneas renew vision, and tissue may help to restore someone's ability to walk, run or move freely without pain. Life Begins with You