FOR 26-year-old Ben Knight, this is the photograph he feared he would never live to see.

His life hung in the balance as he underwent a heart transplant just weeks before the birth of his first child.

Ben, a car salesman, told of how he worried that he would die before his son was born.

But now, after life-saving surgery, he is looking forward to a future with new son Oscar and partner Lindsay Burtonwood.

Ben, of Simonstone, said he was filled with ‘utter terror’ at the thought of never seeing his son.

He said: “We have been through so much. I didn’t know if I would get through the operation to see my son.

“It means to much to me to have come through it and be able to be a dad. We are so happy.”

The former Ribblesdale High School, Clitheroe, pupil said he now has a ‘new lease of life’ and is aiming to raise awareness of organ transplantation and is urging people to carry a donor card.

As he looks forward to his new life, he said he also dreams of representing Great Britain in the Transplant Games.

Ben had been on the waiting list for a heart transplant for 10 years but his condition deteriorated earlier this year.

In April a donor heart was found and he underwent a six-hour transplant operation.

Just two months later, in June, Oscar was born.

At the age of 16 Ben was a 'fit and healthy lad' and played football for the Sabden Football Club every weekend.

However, he contracted a throat infection.

The condition turned into glandular fever and began to spread across his body finally attacking his heart.

He was taken to the critical care unit in Burnley where he was to remain for the next three months as he tried to battle the infection.

The former Sabden Primary School pupil, said: "It was one of the most frightening times of my life because I didn't know what was going on in my body.

"And me and my family knew that my life would never be the same again."

After being released from Burnley General Hospital Ben began his long journey to the top of the organ donor waiting list and paid weekly visits to the only transplant centre in the North West at Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester.

"It has been an incredibly tough and long wait but it had to be the perfect match and because of the shortage of donors this made it even more difficult."

But in December last year Ben began to feel weaker and after doctors conducted blood tests he was told that his body had begun to reject the medication that had kept him alive for 10 years.

It was a particularly difficult time for Ben as his girlfriend, Lindsay, was pregnant.

He said: "It was a horrible because I didn't know if I would get through this and if I would ever meet Oscar.

"I had so much that I still wanted to do so it was pretty scary."

Ben got put on the emergency donor list and after becoming increasingly ill he was hospitalised in a coronary care unit for six weeks.

But in April this year there was a glimmer of hope after he was told that a possible match had been found.

He said: "It all happened very quickly. I got told in the morning that a heart with the correct weight and blood type was on its way to the hospital.

"When it arrived it was a perfect match and within minutes I was in the operating theatre.

"It was a real mix of feelings because I was obviously very happy but at the same time I was frightened."

After undergoing a six-hour operation Ben has made a full recovery and has thanked doctors and nurses who cared for him and allowed him to see his son grow up.

He has also been touched by the fundraising efforts of family friends, Jack and Julie Holding, who have raised hundreds of pounds for the transplant centre.

A fundraising cycle ride from Lands End to John O' Groats was completed earlier this month to raise cash for the Wythenshawe unit.

He said: "It means so much to me and has had a massive effect on my recovery because I know that there are so many people out there who care "And it is important to raise awareness and cash for the centre to help others who are still waiting.

"Now we just need more people to get onto the organ register because some people on the waiting list aren't as lucky as me and lose their battle against illness."

Mr Holding, 50, from Rossendale, said: "We wanted to pay a little bit back to the hospital and the nurses who cared for Ben.

"He is a really young lad and it is a shame that he has already been through so much and it makes you realise how lucky you are.

"We all want more people to carry a donor card as it's something that costs nothing but can save lives."