When Wayne Simons was so ill he had to be taken off the transplant waiting list he thought about getting a priest to give the last rites.
After years of health problems, the Blackpool dad, 39, feared his time had come.
But after undergoing a life-saving double transplant he has new lease of life and is looking forward to his upcoming wedding.
Wayne, of Knowle Avenue, North Shore, has suffered a long series of major health problems, including the loss of his sight for several months and a life or death struggle with sepsis and pneumonia.
But the former support worker, who has type one diabetes, is now on the way up after undergoing kidney and pancreas transplants at Manchester Royal Infirmary in June.
Wayne said: “I am just so thankful to be alive and to feel the best I have felt for years.
“It’s like I have been given a completely new body and a new chance.
“I was scared and excited about the operation – it was a huge thing which took 12 hours and after I came to I was in a lot of pain.
“But it has made such a difference. I’ve gone from seven stone back to my normal weight of 10 and a half stone.
“For years I had no functioning pancreas and I suffered the effects of diabetes but now, for the first time since I was a child, I have normal blood sugar levels.”
Wayne is full of praise for the medical team at Manchester and his family and friends for helping him through so many difficult years.
And he has now proposed to his partner of five years, Danielle Carlton. The couple are set to marry in Turkey next April.
They have a son together, two-year-old Reggie, and Danielle’s two children from a previous relationship – Kai, 10, and Saisha, 15 – also live with them.
Danielle, 35, who has a degree in psychology and previously worked in pupil referral units for schools, said: “It’s makes you realise how lucky it is to have good health – it is so easy to take it for granted.
“One of the hardest things was that neither of us could work because of everything that was going on.
“When Wayne was on dialysis treatment at Royal Preston Hospital, I spent my time rushing to get the kids ready for school, going to Preston to see Wayne and then getting back late.
“Without our mums to help it would have been impossible.
“We have never had much money because of everything that is going on, but something like this makes you realise the priorities in life – your health and your family.
“Wayne has been so strong, after everything he has been through.”
Wayne, who grew up in Blackpool, first became ill with diabetes when he was just 11-years-old.
His parents knew something was wrong because he was dramatically losing weight, passing water more than normal and had an unquenchable thirst.
Wayne recalls his mum being advised by the family GP to get his blood tested but over that weekend he went into a diabetic coma, with blood sugar levels at 52 when the normal rates are between five and seven.
Diagnosed with type one diabetes, he was able to go through his teens with the condition well under control, but in his 20s his health started to suffer.
One of the worst moments came when he went blind for almost six months after suffering a vitreous haemorrhage in both eyes when he was 29.
He said: “I was ready to go off to work in the morning and I bent down to tie my laces.
“Suddenly, all I could see was dark red, nothing else. It was terrifying and I thought I would be blind for the rest of my life.”
But a team of surgeons were able to fix the problem, actually removing one of the eyes in the process and replacing it after draining the retina and putting a gas ball in it to clear the eyes of excess blood.
He knew his sight was returning when a crescent moon shaped light appeared and his eyes eventually cleared.
Another setback came when he fell desperately ill and needed his first kidney transplant in 2012.
His mum donated her kidney and saved his life - but it failed after just five years.
Doctors then discovered he had a rare kidney disease, known as C1Q, that was causing many of his problems.
At the end of 2017 he had to be put on dialysis treatment at Royal Preston, something he had always dreaded and said he would never do.
His condition then dramatically deteriorated.
He developed life-threatening sepsis and pneumonia and was considering a priest to give the last rites when the dialysis kicked in.
When the good news arrived that he was on the list for a kidney transplant, there was a further setback – his haemoglobin levels had dropped, meaning oxygen levels plummeted, and he had to be taken off the waiting list.
But when doctors discovered he had pneumocystis pneumonia, a serious lung infection, they were able to treat him and pull him back from the brink once more.
He was then told he had a chance of a double transplant, with a pancreas available as well.
Finally, on June 5 this year, he was able to undergo the life-changing transplant procedure.
Wayne said: “It has been a long road to this point.
“I am still on a lot of drugs, I’m on medication to control the C1Q and I will always need to take drugs to stop my body rejecting the new organs.
“But I will take that anytime, after what I’ve been through.
“To have Danielle, my family and friends helping me really kept me going, because there were times I couldn’t take any more.”
The couple are adamant that without Wayne’s mum, Ruth Murdoch; Danielle’s mum, Laura Carlton; and their supportive friends Lee Feehan and Deanna Grundy, who set up a special funding page to help them, they wouldn’t have made it.
And now they can look forward to tying the knot in April, with their sights firmly on the future.
Lee and Deanna’s funding page, to ease the financial strain caused by Wayne’s health problems, is at www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/lee-feehan
What is type one diabetes?
Type one diabetes means the pancreas produces very little or no insulin.
It causes high blood sugar levels in the body, with symptoms including frequent urination, increased thirst, increased hunger, and weight loss.
Other symptoms may include blurry vision, tiredness, and poor wound healing.
Although the cause is unknown, it is believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
There is no known way to prevent type one diabetes and those with the condition need treatment with insulin to survive. Untreated, it can lead to severe health problems.
It is though around 80,000 children develop the condition each year.
Organ donation week
NHS Organ Donation Week starts today and across the UK, around 6,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant.
Three people a day die in need of a transplant due to a shortage of people being willing to donate organs.
Next year, the law around organ donation is changing in England and Scotland. It will mean that rather than adults having to opt in to become an organ donor, they will be considered as donors unless they are in an excluded group or formally opt out.
For more information, visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk