Keith Anderson was about to turn in for the night one Sunday evening when he got a phone call that changed his life.

Within 24 hours the 55-year-old, of New Lane in Holgate, York, had a new liver – ending nine years of pain, giving him a new lease of life, and allowing him to become a grandfather.

Today, Mr Anderson backed The Press’s Lifesavers campaign and told his story in a bid to encourage people across our region to join the national Organ Donor Register, so they too could save a life.

He said: “I first realised something was wrong in 1994 when I began to itch all over.

“I eventually found out that I had a rare disease – primary sclerosing cholangitis – which had destroyed the main bile duct which should have been removing bile from my liver.

“Consequently, I had too much bile in my system which was causing the itching. The surgeon replaced the destroyed bile duct using a length of my intestine.”

He said all was going well until July 2002 when the itch returned and he was referred to the specialist liver unit at St James’s University Hospital, Leeds, where he was told the potentially-fatal disease had spread to his liver. “I quickly changed from being a lively 49-year-old when I woke in the morning to feeling half-dead – more like 94 than 49,” he said.

Mr Anderson was told the only treatment that could save him was a liver transplant.

“I was told if I didn’t have one the itch would return, my energy levels would continue to diminish and I would end up like a “couch potato” before dying an early death,” he said.

After discussing the option with his wife, Margaret, and children, Ruth, 30, and Paul, 28, Mr Anderson decided he would go ahead with the transplant if offered one.

He received the call he had been waiting for at 11pm on October 20, 2003, with the successful transplant being carried out the next day.

He said: “One of the first things I did when I got home was write to the donor’s family thanking them for making this possible.

“Hopefully they will derive some comfort from the fact their loved one’s liver has transformed my life.

“I know without a transplant I would have been dead long ago and would never have seen my first grandchild, who is due in September.

“There is a desperate shortage of donor organs and it is vital that people who are willing to be donors make their wishes known.”

How to sign up

You can join the NHS Organ Donor Register by:

• Going online at

• Phoning the 24-hour donor line on 0300 123 23 23.

• Texting SAVE to 84118.

You can also join when you:

• Register for a driving licence.

• Apply for a Boots Advantage card.

• Register at a GP surgery.

• Register for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

Leaflets are also displayed in GPs surgeries, libraries and many hospitals and pharmacies.