‘The emotion I feel is gratitude’: Heart transplant recipient shares story, encourages others to donate life

ST. GEORGE — Roger Allred had been trying to treat his progressive heart failure for over 10 years before his doctor told him that there was nothing more that could be done; he was dying.

Allred was admitted to the hospital on April 1, 2011, and seven days later, he received a lifesaving heart transplant from an anonymous donor.

“The emotion I feel is gratitude. It’s gratitude for those who made that possible for me. … That heart transplant meant the world to me,” Allred said in a speech at the annual Donate Life flag-raising ceremony at Dixie Regional Medical Center.

Having been given the chance to live, Allred didn’t waste a minute. He went back to his job in management, and 16 months after the transplant, he climbed 10,079 feet up Mount Whitney in California.

“I did that to show that heart transplants don’t just keep an old guy alive in a rest home, they give you your life back,”  Allred said. “And the most important parts of having my life back was not the fact that I could climb mountains, it was the fact that I got to see my children married and my 26 grandchildren born. And that is more precious to me than anything else.

Members of the Armed Forces raise the Donate Life flag at the flag-raising ceremony at Dixie Regional Medical Center, St. George, Utah, April 11, 2019 | Photo by Mikayla Shoup, St. George News

Eight years later, Allred has retired, moved to St. George, and works alongside Donate Life America and Intermountain Donor Services, soon to be Donor Connect, visiting intermediate and high schools across Southern Utah to talk about organ donation. In the three semesters that he’s been volunteering in the program, Allred has talked with over 4,000 students.

Allred, along with living organ donor Alison Snow, shared his story at the annual Donate Life flag-raising ceremony at Dixie Regional Medical Center on Thursday to celebrate National Donate Life Month by sharing donor stories and raising a new Donate Life flag in front of DRMC.

Read more: Ceremony at Dixie Regional to honor organ donors, recipients; public invited

While Allred received his heart from an anonymous donor, Snow shared her experience donating a kidney to her cousin, a 43-year-old single mom who was facing death without a transplant.

“I thought, ‘What can I do?’ and I had this impression that came to me so clearly that said, ‘You are her perfect match,'” Snow said.  

Roger Allred and Alison Snow at the Donate Life flag-raising ceremony at Dixie Regional Medical Center, St. George, Utah, April 11, 2019 | Photo by Mikayla Shoup, St. George News

And after the testing and the transplant were complete, she was indeed a perfect match for her cousin.

“I beg of you, please sign up. Please donate. Please do all that you can to save people,” Snow said.

National Donate Life Month was established by Donate Life America and is celebrated each April. Nationwide, events take place all month to encourage Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors and celebrate the donors who have saved the lives of others.

There are currently 700 people awaiting an organ transplant in Utah alone, and over 113,000 nationwide. In the past three years, 100 lives have been saved through organ transplants at Dixie Regional Medical Center, Mike Wood, operations director for critical care at DRMC, said.

“It’s really to provide awareness and a way to also thank those that chose to do this selfless act. We really just need all the help we can to get more people on the donor registry,” Wood said.  

The Heroes in Disguise Run, put on by Intermountain Donor Services, is set to take place Saturday from 8-10 a.m. at Crosby Family Confluence Park in St. George. Tickets are $30 for individual racers and $15 for students and children. All proceeds from the run go to educate students in Southern Utah about organ donation.

Email: mshoup@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @MikaylaShoup

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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