A HEART transplant eight years ago has allowed ex-police dog handler John Roberts to see his grandchildren grow up.

Now, the 59-year-old former PC from Bromley Cross is urging more people than ever to Sign up to Save Lives.

Just four years after retiring from Greater Manchester Police, Mr Roberts was struck down by a virus which destroyed a muscle in his heart.

He was so ill that just five days later he was rushed into surgery to undergo an emergency transplant.

Mr Roberts said: “I was so ill before the transplant, I wouldn’t be here now, quite simply.

“I am just about back to normal now, but it took at least six or seven years to reach that.”

The single dad, who has four children and four grandchildren, says the hardest part was hearing from the parents of the 16-year-old boy killed in a car accident whose heart saved his life.

His youngest daughter Charlotte, now 23, was aged just 16 at the time.

Mr Roberts said: “His parents had registered him and themselves.

“That has been the most difficult part of it to deal with. I have had two letters from his mum.

“The operation was just an operation, but psychologically, I struggled. My daughter was his age at the time.

“According to her letters, it has helped her a lot knowing it has kept other people alive.”

Mr Roberts is also father to Carol, aged 39, Beth, aged 37, and 18-year-old Jamie, with Carmen, aged 16, Evan, aged 11, Imogen, aged 10, and four-year-old Lily his grandchildren.

The former policeman said he is a single parent and having his youngest children live with him during his recovery has made a big difference.

He added: “After my transplant, my children all signed the organ donor list straight away.

“Your organs are not going to help you when you are dead and if you want to help somebody else, sign up.

“People don’t want to think about it, but without the transplant my kids would not have a father.”

The Bolton News is campaigning ahead of August’s Transplant Games in the town for 5,000 more Bolton people to sign the organ donor register.

To Sign Up to Save Lives, go to the NHS register at organdon ation. nhs.uk or call 0300 1232323.