THE wife of Chard transplant patient John Whitworth has said it was like “winning the National Lottery” when the call came to say surgeons had found him a donor.

John, 49, of Lower Touches, is currently recovering in hospital in Bristol after an operation last week saw him receive a donated kidney.

He and his wife, Selma, received a phone call at 3am last Wednesday to say a kidney had been found, and by 6.15pm the same day he was in the operating theatre.

Selma said: “John has been on the transplant list since September last year.

“This is like winning the National Lottery because the person who received the second donated kidney had only been on the list two weeks.

“We got the call at 3am on Wednesday to say a kidney had been found for John.

“It was a long process after further last-minute tests, but he was given the all-clear and went into theatre that evening, arriving back on his ward by 11pm.”

John was struck down with scleroderma – a disease where the immune system, which should protect the body, attacks it instead, causing inflammation and scarring, leaving the skin thickened, muscles weakened and organs damaged – in March last year.

He collapsed and had three seizures, and was in intensive care at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, where he was diagnosed with scleroderma and suffered kidney failure.

But Selma said: “The transplant’s a success so far and the kidney started working straightaway, which is great news.

“John has been feeling extremely sick, but that’s due to having other organs disrupted during the surgery and will probably last a few days.

“But as John and I have both said, if that’s what it takes to get the kidney then so be it.”

The couple have four children – Danny, 17, Robbie 15, Cody, ten, and Aidan, eight – and had just celebrated John’s 49th birthday and his father’s 80th.

A family party saw John’s two sisters from New Zealand fly over to visit.

Selma said: “One of John’s sisters was leaving on Wednesday afternoon, but we didn’t manage a proper goodbye as we had the call about the kidney that morning.

“I don’t think she minded us leaving without saying goodbye!”