A LIDEN man told by doctors he’d die within a fortnight has become GWH's newest volunteer.

Father-of-two Mike McGarvie was days from death when he finally received a liver transplant last May.

Once a formidable winger on the football field, Zambian-born Mike had plunged to 59 kilos - or just over nine stone - by the time of his op at a specialist Birmingham hospital.

A year on from his successful operation, Mike, now 62, wanted to give something back to the Swindon hospital that helped save his life.

He returned to Great Western Hospital’s Neptune Ward as a volunteer in October - one of almost 370 volunteers who help serve meals, change beds and look after visitors.

Mike said: “I wanted to give something back to the NHS. A lot of people take it for granted.

“Volunteers can take a burden off the nurses’ feet, even if we’re only making teas, making beds. Our role is support, so the nurses can focus on their jobs.”

He said that, because many of the volunteers have personal experience of hospital, they can also help support patients undergoing complex treatments.

“I’ve walked that walk, I’ve felt that pain,” he said. “A nurse knows the medical aspects of treatment, but I know how strong that person’s character has to be.”

Mike fell ill in 2014, after a career in the South African hospitality industry.

One doctor in his home town of Durban gave him just two weeks to live. “The doctor said: ‘That fancy red Ferrari you’ve been dreaming of – you’d better buy it, because you’re not going to make the last instalment’.”

The condition of his South African hospital was grim, he said: “When you went to the bathroom you had to take your bed linen with you, otherwise it would be nicked. My cellphone and whatever else I had with me I would put into my pillowcase.”

Mike flew to the UK in August 2014, joining his two sisters in Swindon. He now lives in Liden.

For two years he received “five star” care from doctors at Lawn Medical Centre and Great Western Hospital. He was put on the liver transplant list.

Last spring his consultant at GWH, Dr Moby Joseph, was woken in the middle of the night to say that a liver was available.

“Mike probably wouldn’t have survived for long if he hadn’t got that liver,” said Dr Joseph.

The South African was rushed into a Birmingham operating theatre. All Mike knows about the liver that saved his life is that it belonged to a 21-year-old.

He said: “For 12 days after the operation I don’t remember anything.”

Mike’s first-born flew out from South Africa to be by his bed side.

“The first thing I can remember was his voice,” he said. “His voice next to the bed. According to the nurse, I opened my eyes when he spoke.”

After the operation, Mike had to learn to walk again. Even now, he has pale patches on his arms from where plasters once secured life-saving drug lines in his veins.

Mike and Dr Joseph hope to set up a support group in the new year for those waiting for liver transplants.

“The pain and suffering is something only a patient can experience,” said Mike.

He said that among the list of people he credited with his recovery were Lawn Medical Centre medic Dr Callaghan, the GWH doctors and nurses and his family.

“I’d like to thank the people who have supported me through those difficult times and the guardian angel who sat next to me,” he said, adding: “The NHS has been five star.”