Sailor receives life-saving heart transplant

- A heart attack brought a world-traveling sailor to the brink of death, but a donor has given him a second chance at life.

At 67, John Allen is lucky to be alive. The engineer and businessman was in Tampa in October of 2016, getting parts for his boat and preparing for a trip to sail the Panama Canal, when he had a heart attack while driving his car.

"Woke up, and I couldn't move my mouth, I couldn't speak. I tried walking up the hill and passed out again," he explained.

Allen was rushed to the hospital and told he needed a new heart valve.  Medication he received nearly killed him after he suffered an allergic reaction.  That reaction caused his heart to fail and surgeons told him he would need a transplant. 

"He came to us nearly dying. He was saved by surgeons in Tampa. It's very unusual for a person like John to recover to the extent that he did," explained Dr. Scott Silvestry, Surgical Director of the Thoracic Transplant Program at Florida Hospital in Orlando.

Allen made the most of it, determined to rehabilitate himself and be ready for a transplant, if the opportunity came.

"I really needed to be mentally and spiritually fit to be a good heart recipient, and I was determined to be a good one," he said.

Allen received the call for a transplant a couple of weeks ago and he is now recovering while urging others to be organ donors.

"When one person dies, it's a tragedy, but if those organs aren't used, that's two tragedies. That's another person that dies unnecessarily."

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