Man, 98, Believed to Be Oldest US Organ Donor Ever

His liver was successfully transplanted after his death
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 13, 2024 12:30 AM CDT
98-Year-Old Believed to Be Oldest US Organ Donor Ever
Orville Allen of Poplar Bluff, Mo., holding his great-granddaughter at her baptism.   (Linda Mitchelle via AP)

Orville Allen lived a lifetime of service, and when he died at age 98 he had one last thing to give: his liver. Allen, a veteran of both World War II and the Korean War and a longtime educator in rural southeastern Missouri, is the oldest American to ever donate an organ, transplant organizations said. He died on May 29 and his liver was successfully transplanted to a 72-year-old woman, the AP reports. Allen was in robust health until he suffered a fall while picking up storm debris at his home in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, on May 27, his daughter, Linda Mitchelle said. He struck the back of his head and was flown to St. Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau. Swelling around Allen's brain couldn't be healed. As the family was preparing to say goodbye, hospital staff had a question: Would they consider donating his liver?

Given Allen's age, it was a question that caught the relatives by surprise. But surgeons had examined him and determined the organ was acceptable for transplant. Knowing their dad's nature—always the first to check in on people, always at the doorstep of a needy neighbor—the siblings didn't hesitate. "It turned it from being such a sad loss of our dad to having this little ray of joy because he was doing what he'd done all his life," Mitchelle said. "He was giving one more gift." Increasingly, older adults can donate organs upon their death, said Kevin Lee, president and CEO of Mid-America Transplant. The liver "is resilient. We see liver donations at all ages," Lee said. About 12% of deceased organ donors in the first four months of this year were people age 65 or older, a United Network for Organ Sharing spokeswoman says.

(More organ donor stories.)

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