GRANDFATHER James McIntosh had been on the organ transplant list for nearly two years when the call finally came - and he missed it.

Mr McIntosh, from Strathdon in Aberdeenshire, had been in the shower at the time.

Moments later, as he was drying himself, the call came again.

"They said 'we'll have an ambulance with you in 10 minutes, we've got a new set of lungs for you'," he recalls.

"I was blue-lighted into Aberdeen and the fixed-wing air ambulance was at Aberdeen Airport waiting for me, and I was in Newcastle in exactly two hours - in the ward, getting prepared for theatre. It was very quick.

"It was such a relief. I was going downhill.

"In my own mind I though 'I'm not going to make Christmas'."

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Mr McIntosh, a married father-of-three who has run the Lecht Ski Centre since 1977, had been diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) in 2012.

The incurable and fatal condition causes the lungs to become stiff as scar tissue builds up, making breathing increasingly difficult.

It is unknown was causes IPF, but around 500 people a year in Scotland are diagnosed.

Average life expectancy is just three years, with a lung transplant the only hope for survival.

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Mr McIntosh, who served in the Royal Navy before entering the ski business, noticed that he was gradually becoming more breathless over a period of seven years, but initially put it down to normal ageing.

As time went on, it affected his participation in his local pipe band.

He said: "On the fourth Saturday of every month we would walk for six miles, from 8am, and mostly uphill.

"When we were marching, going up one of the braes, I was falling behind. I couldn't keep up."

Eventually he visited his GP, who referred him on for tests that ultimately led to an IPF diagnosis, which he described as a "complete shock".

Although X-rays showed his lungs deteriorating, Mr McIntosh was not initially considered unwell enough to be added to the transplant waiting list.

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In the meantime he was prescribed pirfenidone, a drug which slows the progress of the scarring, and eased his breathlessness with oxygen.

"Having to carry around heavy oxygen bottles was a strain, but I was keen not to mope around feeling sorry for myself and wanted to keep doing the job I love," said Mr McIntosh.

"Although the oxygen therapy was essential in keeping me going, my condition was getting worse and worse and I could barely cross the road to get to the Lecht.

"I found myself needing oxygen at night as the weeks went on. I kept myself as fit as possible to prepare myself for the surgery and keep my lungs going as best as I could but I was worried that things could get worse very quickly.”

In December 2015, doctors based at the NHS transplant hospital in Newcastle agreed that Mr McIntosh's condition was so serious he had to be put on the organ waiting list.

By the time his donor lungs became available - one year and 11 months later - Mr McIntosh said he could walk no more than five yards without having to stop to get his breath back.

He said the transformation in his health since the operation has been incredible.

Although he knows nothing about the donor - who requested anonymity - Mr McIntosh says he cannot thank them and their family enough for giving him a new lease of life.

He said: "I'm brand new. I'm back at work - I haven't retired. I've had my fill of daytime tv.

"I'm supposed to limit myself to 20 hours a week - on Monday I did seven.

"I am just so grateful to a family who made a decision and I was lucky enough to be the recipient, and it's just unbelievable. It's given me my life back.

"I'm all in favour of opt-out. But the next thing I'd be preaching is that it doesn't matter what system you have, as long as you also tell your family your wishes - what you want to donate. You've got to involve your family in it.

"It's alright saying you've got to 'opt-out' now, but at the end of the day your family can still stop it."