A DESPERATELY ill Ilkley man has had the perfect birthday present - a new liver.

Luigi Pignanelli's wife, Samantha, made a public appeal for a living donor after doctors told her they did not know if he would survive long enough for a replacement organ to be found.

That appeal drew responses from more than 100 people around the world but then, last week, a liver became available just in time.

That meant Luigi, who with his wife runs the Emporio Italia restaurant in Ilkley, could have a transplant on Wednesday, August 30.

He is now recovering well at St James's Hospital, Leeds and Samantha said the family had been overwhelmed by all the help that had been offered.

Speaking on Friday, September 1, she said: "The support of not only Ilkley residents but those from all around, near and far, has been mind-blowing.

"Luigi and all the family are so grateful to each and every one who came forward.

"A live donor was not needed in the end as a liver became available just in time!

"Today is Luigi's birthday - what a birthday present."

The news was also announced today on the Ilkley Chat Facebook page, which said: "Fantastic news in our inbox this morning from Gianluca at Emporio Italia.

"Just like to share the good news that Luigi Pignanelli has been given the best birthday present he could have wished for, a new liver!

"He is in high spirits and would like to thank all the Ilkley folk for all their kind wishes and prayers, all the support has been overwhelming.

"Happy Birthday Luigi!"

Scores of people responded by adding their well wishes on the page, too.

Andrew Steadman said: "Great news! Massive congratulations to Luigi on his birthday and wishing you all the best! Love to you and your family!"

Rachel Evans posted: "That's fantastic news. Wishing you a speedy recovery and love to the rest of your family"; while Amanda Atkinson said: "Fantastic, fabulous, so pleased for you all. Take care and wish you a smooth recovery."

Volunteers from as far afield as the US and Canada had volunteered to be tested to help Luigi after the appeal was publicised.

Luigi first became ill on holiday in Crete last August and was diagnosed after collapsing at work in December, 2016 when he was put on the list for a liver transplant.