Tributes to double-transplant hero Mark Allen

A former Express & Star journalist who overcame serious illnesses to take gold at the European Transplant Games has died aged 50.

Mark Allen pictured at his home in Cannock Wood while waiting for a lung transplant
Mark Allen pictured at his home in Cannock Wood while waiting for a lung transplant

Mark Allen, who was a reporter with the Express & Star and Stafford Chronicle from 1995-1999, died on Wednesday in hospital, with his girlfriend Ela and mother Maureen Allen at his side.

Mr Allen, who was not expected to live beyond his teens after being born with cystic fibrosis, was praised for his "extraordinary courage" by friends.

He became a keen campaigner for organ donations after receiving a double lung transplant in 2005, having been taken ill with pneumonia while working as a teacher in South Korea.

Mark Allen arrived home to a house decorated by his neighbours in Cannock Wood after his double lung transplant.

Mr Allen appeared in a BBC television documentary where he compiled a video diary of what his life was like during his 20 months on the transplant list.

A keen table tennis player, he took an impressive haul of medals at the British, European and World Transplant Games, as well as being a torch-bearer at the 2012 Paralympics.

Mr Allen also played the keyboard in transplant band Gifted Organs, which gained national publicity, and as part of a campaign to encourage people to donate organs.

He also survived a serious car crash in May last year.

Mark Allen during his time as a reporter at the Express & Star

Cheshire journalist Dave Holmes, with whom Mark completed his journalism training, said Mark loved to travel and lived around the globe, and wrote online he “drank with the cast of Neighbours and travelled with an Imbruglia”, referring to actor and singer Natalie's sister, only for him to meet Natalie too at a later date.

Dave said: “Our dear friend Mark Allen passed away peacefully in hospital on Wednesday with his mum Maureen Allen and girlfriend Ela at his side.

“Despite being born with cystic fibrosis, Mark was determined to squeeze the most out of life and defied the odds in making it to 50 last October.

“A life lived to the full by someone able to remain positive and strong despite innumerable setbacks to his health."

Mark Allen with his two bronze medals at the National Transplant Games held in Coventry in 2009

Mr Holmes described his friend as "a kind gentleman, an inspiration and someone who brought his unique and quirky sense of fun to every occasion."

Mr Allen left the Express & Star to go travelling in 1999 after four years working mainly at the newspaper's Stafford office.

He spent time in the US, Australia and the Netherlands, but in March 2002 he was taken ill while working as a language teacher in South Korea.

After 17 months on a waiting list, he received a double lung transplant on his 33rd birthday in October, 2005.

Mark Allen, third from left, was part of the torch-bearing team for the 2012 Paralympics

Mr Allen enjoyed 17 months of good health, did many interviews, and wrote articles about transplantation.

He also took part in a Big-Brother style competition held in Cannock's bandstand in 2006, eventually finishing runner-up.

But in January 2007, just weeks after returning to full-time work after landing a job as a press officer with Halton Borough Council in Widnes, Cheshire, he suffered another setback when he was diagnosed with chronic rejection.

He competed in the 2010 European Transplant Games in Sweden, winning a gold medal in the men's doubles tournament, and bronze in the singles and Swedish ball throw competitions.

Mark Allen during his time in hospital

Mr Allen took the medals despite having just 26 per cent lung capacity, compared to the average man of his age and height, competing against players who had full capacity.

He also developed diabetes as a result of his cystic fibrosis.

In 2012 he carried the Paralympic torch for part of its journey from Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire to the Olympic Park in London.

Then in 2019 he took the gold medal in the British Transplant Games in Newport, South Wales, taking his total number of British medals to more than a dozen.

Mark Allen during his time in hospital

Mr Allen also served as a governor of Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital Foundation NHS Trust.

He survived a serious car crash last year, celebrating his 50th birthday in October.

Mr Holmes added: “He had friends around the world.

“To many of us, Mark was our hero but he was always so understated about his extraordinary courage and achievements.

“His passing leaves a big hole."

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