LYING in hospital as his kidneys failed, John Quilligan could have felt sorry for himself. But if ever he did, he only had to look at the patient in the next bed — a tiny five-year-old girl.
In 2011 both were patients at the Monash hospital in Clayton awaiting kidney transplants, but it was seeing the stricken child that really brought home to Mr Quilligan the importance of organ donation.
"That's when you realise these kids shouldn't be going through this. At least at 53, I'd been overseas, run companies, I'd done the lot.
"She was a five-year old kid who may have never got a crack at life."
Two years on, both are living healthy lives. But before his transplant Mr Quilligan had felt his life slipping away, having to undergo 12 hours of daily dialysis.
"On dialysis it's not living, I was drowning in my own fluids."
After a long search for a compatible kidney, Mr Quilligan's saving grace came from within his family. "I just thought my number was up but it turned out my sister-in-law was a perfect match."
Mr Quilligan is now encouraging Australians to register to be organ donors. "I never thought about it but when you are put into a position when your life depends on it, it changes your whole attitude."
Mr Quilligan says he has a second chance at life, celebrating milestones such as giving away his daughter at her wedding and seeing his granddaughter grow.
"These are things I would have never got to do without the organ donation. Every morning I put my feet on the ground and thank God."
In 2012 more than 1000 Australians received donor organs from 354 donors, a rise of 5 per cent since 2011. The Monash Medical Centre performs about 80 organ transplants a year.
Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Catherine King, welcomed a steady increase in organ donation during 2012.
"There is still considerable work to be done," she said.
Mr Quilligan plans to donate his organs when his time is up and encourages other Australians to do the same.
To register to be an organ donor call 1800 777 203 or click here.