Councillor Mike Sharpe, is looking forward to the festive period more eagerly than in previous years.

This time last year he relied on four-times daily dialysis sessions and various medication to keep his kidneys working properly. And a festive toddy or two was definitely out of the question.

After his wife Thelma gave him "the best present ever" last month - one of her kidneys as a living donor - he is already savouring his freedom and looking forward to a few pints of Guinness.

Since 1991, Coun Sharpe (Lab Tyburn) suffered from a condition called nephritis IGA, a progressive inflammatory disease of the kidneys.

Six weeks before being inaugurated as Lord Mayor of Birmingham in May 2006, his kidney function fell from 22 per cent to 11 per cent, making dialysis, and a transplant, unavoidable.

"I was on dialysis four times a day. The first day I was back in my own bed I went to do my first session but it was great when I realised I didn't have to," said Coun Sharpe.

"As well as being the gift of life, this transplant has given me freedom from all that palaver."

Back at home, surrounded by dozens of get well cards, the 56-year-old is clearly relaxed but admits he was worried for Thelma when she went into theatre at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in Edgbaston, on November 17.

Giving his wife a tender look, he explained: "It's a strange feeling because it would normally be one of you in hospital, and the other would be at home to keep everything running.

"I was worried about Thelma, but we both had a moment in the recovery room as I was going in for my operation and we waved at each other which put my mind at rest."

Thelma, who made her potentially life-saving offer on their 35th wedding anniversary in January 2006, added that she only realised the enormity of what she was doing when they arrived on Ward East 4B.

The 53-year-old social worker was not the only member of their family willing to be a living donor, their 33-year-old son Neil was also compatible, but Mrs Sharpe "pulled rank and played the mother card".

"It was only when we walked onto the ward the day before that it hit me what I was going to do, but I didn't have any doubts," she said.

"After his operation, I'd been asleep, but when I woke up I saw him sitting up in bed eating his lunch. It was just so 'normal' that I think it amazed both of us."

The couple also befriended Marlene Worthington and her son Terry, who was donating one of his kidneys to her, who had undergone the same operation the previous day.

Both Mr Worthington and Mrs Sharpe have felt they were "in limbo" following the transplant, after going through months of blood tests, scans and appointments to ensure they were fit to be living donors.

"I couldn't fault the level of care or expertise we got at the QE but both Terry and myself felt like we were in limbo afterwards, while Mike and Marlene had regular check-ups," she said.

"So I'm going to meet up with Terry so we can hopefully fill in the gaps for each other."

Mrs Sharpe, with a tear in her eye, added: "In a way that doesn't matter because there's a great sense of satisfaction in knowing Mike no longer needs dialysis and that he's feeling so much better.

"There were many nights when he'd be up feeling really sick and would be knocked for six, so to seem Mike as he is now, he's like a new man."

Coun Sharpe is urging anyone thinking about becoming a living donor to "find out all they can before making any decision".

He added: "But if just one person decides to do that, they will be changing someone's life for the better. That's what Thelma's done, she's saved my life."

For more information about how to become a living donor call UK Transplant 0845 60 60 400 (24 hour) or visit www.uktransplant.org.