Definition of a kidney transplant, a kidney transplant is the transfer of a healthy kidney from one person into the body of a person who has little or no kidney function. I fell into the latter of these two categories.

I was working away as part of a public house relief management team - my wife Debbie and I started this job some 12 to 18 months before I got the call that changed my life.

We were both enjoying work and life immensely when one day I felt quite unwell. After a blood test and a visit to a local GP's surgery, I was told in no uncertain terms to get myself home as a bed had been booked for me in Winchester Hospital. And so began the transplant journey.

I really must take the opportunity to thank my wife Debbie, as to be honest, I would not have made it this far without her. She is and always will be my rock, the love of my life and soul mate. We have been through some stuff in our 30 years of marriage and most of that stuff has been medically orientated.

The stories I have could fill a book - the people we have met, the doctors, nurses, and patients, past and present, the mishaps, the hard times and the many good times we have shared. Debbie, I love you and thank you so much for being you.

I also need to thank the NHS - where do you start with the NHS? They are just brilliant, clever, dedicated and kind people. Dave, the guy who taught us how to use a dialysis machine; Lucy, who drew faces on my toes while I was in bed at Portsmouth Hospital; the doctor who told Debbie off because I missed an appointment (he was such a lovely guy) and it was my fault again; and the many other people who I haven't got space to mention.

Most of all my thanks goes to the individual, or family of the individual, who gave me the gift of life and made the brave decision to donate in such a difficult moment.

Every year, this being my 29th year as a transplant patient, I say a prayer and give thanks for what you did for me. I cannot express in words my feelings of gratitude - to be able to live, have kids and have a full life - it is all thanks to you, bless you.

I only dialysed for 15 months - regular trips to Portsmouth, three times a week for six-hour sessions. And then, once Dave instructed us on how to use the machine, we moved to Basingstoke and self-dialysed. It was a good move, saving us at least two hours a session, which mounts up over a month to make life a little easier.

I do remember one evening there, we arrived to clean down and set up for dialysis and went through the usual process (plugged in and settled down for the evening), until the dreaded warning lights started to flash. I tried all the things we had been showed but no joy, call Dave.

We were not far into the process, there are six machines so I moved to another machine. I followed the instructions given and Debbie puts the kettle on. I just started and the warning lights came on again. This is not good. I called Dave again and he asked me to drive to Portsmouth and we will get a machine ready for me in the unit.

We were ready to set off so I unplugged the machine and a clip was missing, blood was now pumping out onto the floor. It is correct when they say a little blood goes a long way, especially when it is pumping out of your arm and onto the floor. We look back and laugh about it now, in fact it is just part of the rich tapestry of life as the saying goes, but at the time, I am not sure who was more upset, Debbie or I.

My medical issues have given me a very matter of fact way of looking at life. For example, a guy came into a bar, "Hello, Pete, what a day I have had. Woke up to a flat tyre, the wife was moaning and when I got to work the boss was in a foul mood."

From my point of view, things of this nature are minor inconveniences. Major illness is a life-changer and it puts your life into perspective. A blown tyre, a dropped plate or missed bus, never mind, just be thankful for being here in the first place.

I was an HGV driver and I could not work so I went back to college and embarked on City and Guilds Motor Mechanics Level 1 and 2. One morning, I was about to leave for college and the phone rang, "Mr Francis?" asked the caller.

""Yes, speaking," I said.

"We have a kidney for you, can you get to Portsmouth as soon as possible?" I was asked.

"Yes, I'll be there." I cried.

I made a call to Debs, "Portsmouth just rang, they've got a kidney." We cried.

After my transplant, my kidney did not work for over 35 days. On the morning of day 40-something, Debbie and I were on the ward and cleaning down the dialysis machine to dialyse when my surgeon popped his head through the door and exclaimed... "You can forget that. It's working!"

My surgeon was a lovely guy, dry sense of humour, with yellow fingers due to the amount he smoked. He shut the door and walked away. We cried, again. 

So, from 30 years ago and dialysing three times a week, marriage on hold, not working... to present day and coming out of lockdown number three - feeling very unsure and anxious about getting back to life again. I have spent 13 months shielding but I feel so lucky that I am still here when so many have lost loved ones.

I guess we need to get back to normality and some sort of regular life. I've made changes in my life before and if I must make changes again, I will. I have a gorgeous wife, three fantastic children and grandchildren, and we're making cautious steps back into the world with so much to live for. 

Writing this, I am crying. Thank you whoever you were, thank you Debbie and thank you to the NHS. It still makes me emotional and probably always will.