PORT Fairy's Rod Drysdale has a new lease on life after receiving a life-saving donation.
The former Macedon Ranges winemaker became sick in 2013 with an auto-immune disease which caused fibrosis of the lungs.
At 58, he was forced to retire, unable to work.
But five years later, Mr Drysdale received a double lung transplant.
"I got to the point where I'd probably have only lasted another six months," the now 65-year-old said.
Mr Drysdale is now encouraging others to become organ donors as part of their new year's resolution.
"It costs them nothing and takes them a couple of minutes online to sign up," he said.
"The thing is you never know whether you, your family or a friend will need the services one day."
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When Mr Drysdale was diagnosed, his lung capacity was at 50 per cent, which years later dropped down to 30 per cent.
"At the 30 per cent, I couldn't function and I couldn't work," he said.
"I had a lot of trouble walking. If I was walking down the street I'd have to stop every 30 metres to get my breath back but I'd pretend to look into a shop window.
"My heart was failing and they'd essentially given me a death sentence.
"After the five years, it got to the point before I had the lung transplant, I ended up virtually in a wheelchair, because my heart started to fail.
"It was beating at 100 miles an hour trying to get oxygen through my body. It was really struggling.
"Now, thanks to my donor and donor family, I can walk many kilometres."
He'd never had lung issues growing up.
Once Mr Drysdale was put onto the waiting list for a new pair of lungs, he only had to wait three weeks before receiving the life-saving transplant at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.
He thought recovery would be quick but it was a long, hard 12 months that followed.
"At first it was very difficult. I thought that I was superman," Mr Drysdale said.
"I thought that I'd get in there, have the transplant and would walk away after three days.
"Unfortunately, that didn't happen. I was in intensive care for a month, spending three of those weeks in a coma. Another three weeks was spent on the ward.
"I was suffering from delirium from the medication I was taking. I had crazy nightmares that the nurses were trying to kill me and that mine and (my wife) Christine's (McIlroy) life were in danger."
He also suffered from broken ribs from coughing and a collapsed lung, and had fluid on the lungs, and a hernia.
Mr Drysdale has also suffered from some long term impacts - a loss of short term memory from being under anesthetic during his operations to sort all these health issues.
He has to take 30 tablets a day and will undergo rehabilitation for the rest of his life.
The transplant recipient never learnt who the donor was but knew he was male and that both lungs came from the same person.
During his time on the ward, Mr Drysdale was shocked to see the number of young people receiving organ transplants.
"I thought 'how lucky am I that I virtually finished my working career before I got really, really sick'," he said.
"These poor kids in their 20s and 30s have got the rest of their life having to deal with health issues. That was a real shock to me, I just didn't expect that at all."
Mr Drysdale had never thought of being a donor himself, until he was a recipient candidate, now his family members, children, and children's friends are all donors.
"I hardly knew anything about transplants at all until I was a candidate," he said.
"I never knew that I'd need a transplant.
"One of the interesting things is that having a double lung transplant has also given me the opportunity to see my children and my four grandchildren continue to grow up."
Mr Drysdale said the one thing that helped him along the way was support from his wife.
"I can't say enough about carers and having a family environment that is supportive of that," he said.
"Having a transplant, no matter whether that's heart, lungs, kidneys or liver, is not a treatment, it's a new but different life (of treatments).
"People who go through transplants go through cycles of health."
Register your intention to become an organ donor and have a conversation with their family.
It only takes one minute to register as an organ and tissue donor at donatelife.gov.au or through the Medicare Express Plus app.
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