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Father who donated kidney to son turns 102

Toronto, September 18, 2019

By Ana Gajic

Recent photo of Sam (left) and John Allen
Sam (left) and John Allen

Some people fear that donating a kidney diminishes the donor's life in some way. Sam Allen, who just turned 102, begs to differ.

In 1991, his son John, who was 45 at the time, was on dialysis. After a childhood infection damaged his kidneys and caused the removal of one, John’s second kidney was failing. His dad, 74 at the time, felt compelled to help.

“I felt an awful need,” Sam said. “I couldn’t leave things as they were. I felt if there’s anything I can do, I will do it regardless of the costs.”

Sam was living in Montreal at the time and came to St. Michael’s Hospital to be tested to see if he was a match for John. As luck would have it, he was.

Now, nearly three decades later as the father-son duo reflect on when Sam found out he could help save John’s life, they share a warm moment.

“How did you feel when you found out you were a match for me?” John asks his dad.

“Well I was very happy,” his father responds.

John laughs.

“So was I!”

John (left) and Sam Allen, in front of their old house
John (left) and Sam Allen

Earlier this month, Sam turned 102 with John, John’s wife and Sam’s daughter by his side. The family had a quiet dinner at John’s house to celebrate.

Much like birthdays, the two prefer to mark their transplant anniversary every October quietly.

“My dad’s a quiet guy,” John said. “He’s not very demonstrative. He was there when I needed him and there was no question. It had to be done, it was done and he never looked back.”

Sam, who was born in 1917 and moved to Canada from Northern Ireland in 1938, now uses a walker to get around. He prepares his own vegetables for dinner. He takes one medication per day – far less than the daily transplant medications his son John takes, he jokes.

“I’ve been very fortunate,” Sam reflects.

“My dad had great health before and has had great health after,” John said. “And that’s a reflection of the science of organ transplantation – and the team at St. Michael’s Hospital.

John Allen sits on the shoulders of his father, Sam
John and Sam Allen

“For me, getting a transplant was just the best. It’s been a life-saving, life giving operation, no question about it.”


John and Sam's story is the tenth in a series of patients we're profiling to celebrate our Kidney Transplant Program's 50th anniversary. It's called #MyTXanniversary, and we want to encourage more people to register as organ donors and highlight its patients and staff by sharing stories of their own transplant anniversaries. Past articles:

Sign up to be a donor, or check your registration status online today at our donor drive.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

About Unity Health Toronto

Unity Health Toronto, comprised of Providence Healthcare, St. Joseph’s Health Centre and St. Michael’s Hospital, works to advance the health of everyone in our urban communities and beyond. Our health network serves patients, residents and clients across the full spectrum of care, spanning primary care, secondary community care, tertiary and quaternary care services to post-acute through rehabilitation, palliative care and long-term care, while investing in world-class research and education. For more information, visit www.unityhealth.to.


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