TRIBUTES have been paid to a pioneering heart transplant patient who battled cancer.

Great-grandfather Raymond Mullins, 61, of Buckley, was one of the first patients to get the life-saving operation in 1988 but despite being given five years to live he defied the odds to survive for 22 years.

Mr Mullins was diagnosed with lung cancer 15 years ago and it was found to be terminal cancer two years ago. He died on Monday morning leaving his family devastated.

His wife of 44 years Margaret said: “There is a big whole in my heart that will never be filled again. He was my best friend, my world.”

Son Howard, 34, said: “Prior to the transplant he was very ill but after the recovery he was a totally different man. It was a phenomenal difference. It was a life-saving operation.

“When he had the operation they gave him five years to live. This was a second chance. He fought every step of the way.

“He was well-known in Buckley. It is comforting to know how respected he was. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer 15 years ago. He had been in and out of hospital.”

Mr Mullins was the 15th patient to be given the life-saving operation at Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester.

Daughter Alison Davies, 38, had been looking after her father along with Margaret.

She said: “He had so much to live for. He had a family that loved him. He had a very strong character and he wasn’t morbid, he would shrug it off.

“His family meant everything to him, he was very loving and we loved him. Me and mum gave up work to look after him. We cherished all the extra time we had with him. My mum has been wonderful caring for him.

“Once he had the transplant he said he was given a new life, it was like getting reborn and he made the most of it.”

Mr Mullins, a former service manager at Dobshill garage, was a keen darts player and had won various trophies and played for the White Lion, The Griffin and The Parrot public houses.

He had also raised money for Wythenshawe Hospital.

Allison said: “We would like to thank everyone who has offered their condolences and Dr Tansley at Marches Medical Practice.”

The funeral will take place at Bistre Parish Church, Buckley, on Wednesday, November 3 at midday followed by a burial service at Blacon Cemetery, Chester.

Donations for Cancer Research UK and Wythenshawe Hospital will be accepted in place of flowers.