This article is reposted from Orlando Sentinel. See the full article, including a video here.
Sailor and Florida Hospital patient John Allen, 67, never planned to end up in Orlando.
“Work has brought me all over the world,” said Allen.
Allen, a world traveler and engineer, spent his life planning and plotting adventures across the globe in his sailboat.
Allen stopped in Tampa to secure some last minute nautical items needed for the long journey at sea.
As he drove north on I-275, Allen’s eyes shut. He veered across four lanes narrowly missing every dangerous target on the busy highway. He woke up in a ditch.
“I hit nothing,” said Allen.
The police arrived on scene and found Allen groggy and confused. An ambulance arrived shortly after and Allen was taken to the local hospital.
“They said I needed a new heart valve,” said Allen.
Surgeons carefully made the life saving repairs and gave him heparin which is used to prevent blood clots.
Allen was allergic to the medication and fell into a coma that lasted nearly a month.
He was transported via helicopter to Florida Hospital Orlando. He woke up next to his son.
“When we met he was in shock and he was asleep and he was literally dying,” said Scott C Silvestry, MD, Surgical Director for Thoracic Transplant Programs at Florida Hospital.
It became clear Allen would need a new heart and was added to the growing number of people hoping for organ transplants.
According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, 116,238 people in the U.S. are currently waiting for a life saving organ. 3,979 people in the U.S. are waiting for a heart.
During the wait, Allen stayed at The Bartch Transplant House in Orlando which looks more like a day spa than a medical facility.
The living room wall is covered in glass waves and sailboats. Allen said he felt calm there right away.
“It feels like a home,” said Allen
He soon got word doctors may have found a match.
“The logistics of a transplant are a little bit like a blind date,” said Dr. Silvestry.
Allen was prepped for surgery while his team of surgeons evaluated the donated heart. It was determined not to be a good fit.
Allen went back to waiting.
“I thought in terms of three things, my mental, spiritual and physical strength,” said Allen.
A few months later the call came again. He was put under. Again he would wake up with the same heart that was failing him.
“On the second one I had a feeling I wasn’t going to get that heart,” said Allen. “My son was more disappointed than I was.”
Then nearly a year after his initial hospitalization, doctors determined the third available heart was a perfect match.
“We get to go in and say to John that we have a heart for you because of someone’s generosity,” said Dr. Silvestry.
Now Allen’s out of the hospital and is co-writing a book about his experience alongside an African American woman he met who received a kidney transplant.
“It’s about our shared experience,” said Allen. They plan to title the book, Waiting for a Heart, Waiting for a Kidney.
Allen also updates his family and friends through an email newsletter.
For now Allen is looking to buy a house in the Orlando area and is trying to sell his sailboat.
“I’m not leaving this hospital,” said Allen. He says he plans to volunteer there soon.
The non-profit Donate Life is celebrating National Donor Sabbath Friday November 10 through Sunday November 12th. This three-day observance is meant to compel faith leaders to encourage their congregations to become organ donors.