Colin Mitchell's zest for life has returned after a successful liver transplant almost two decades ago.

The keen sportsman, from Worthing, was among the first patients to have the operation at the Royal Free Hospital in London back in 1989.

Now the 58-year-old has returned to the capital to help the hospital celebrate its landmark 1,000 liver transplant.

Mr Mitchell joined hundreds of others who have had the operation at Alexandra Palace to promote a campaign to urge more people to sign up to the organ donor register.

He said: "The most important thing is that if you are willing to become a donor, you must make sure your family are aware.

"I will always be so grateful to the person who helped me and there are so many others out there who could be helped."

Mr Mitchell, a freelance human resources consultant, was been a fit and healthy family man before falling ill at the age of 39.

He had Budd-Chiari Syndrome diagnosed, which causes the clotting of a major vein serving the liver.

He quickly deteriorated, losing more than four stone in a matter of weeks.

Mr Mitchell said: "My liver basically packed in and there was nothing the doctors could do for me.

"My friends and family had already said their goodbyes when the news came through that a donor had been found in Germany.

"I had the operation and was back at work again within a few weeks.

"It took a while to regain my strength but because I had not been ill for a long time before the transplant, as many patients are, my recovery was quicker.

"I am still fit and healthy and going strong. I haven't looked back.

"Whenever I felt down or unwell, the exercise and the sport I did helped me feel a lot better. It helped speed up the recovery and get me fit again."

The father of two continued running, race walking and playing cricket and badminton.

He has since performed in a race walking competition at the World Transplant Games and is captain of the Great Britain Transplant cricket club.

The Royal Free's liver transplant unit opened in 1988 and carries out between 50 and 60 transplants a year. It is one of only seven centres in the country which offers the operation.

More than 400 people in Britain die every year while waiting for an organ transplant.

For more information on how to join the register, call 0845 6060400.

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