Variety Stories: John Dillalo

“It was a matter of life and death for me.”

John Dilallo has overcome a lot to be here today, and his story is one of inspiration and hope. John’s life was thrown into a whirlwind when a doctor’s appointment revealed that his kidneys were failing. Almost immediately, John had to start dialysis. This was necessary until the hospital could find him a kidney transplant. But there was an obstacle in the way before John could have a transplant – he was overweight.

His doctor said he would need to lose at least 60 lbs before they would be able to do his transplant. Being on dialysis made losing that amount of weight, an already demanding task, even more difficult. Regardless, John was committed to losing it. He said, “It was a matter of life and death for me.”

John began his weight loss journey, but it was anything but easy. He sought out dieticians, but no one would offer to work with him because they were too concerned with his health issues. To John, it felt like it was their way of telling him ‘it was over,’ but he wasn’t going to give up. This is when John found Variety Village.

John met a personal trainer at Variety named Andrew, who created a workout plan for him. The plan was built specifically to work with John’s mobility issues and dialysis. Throughout John’s treatments and surgeries, the Village adapted to his needs and range of abilities.

“Along with my wife Rosa, Variety Village was a solid constant,” said John, “I could always count on Variety Village and especially all the people.”

In a few months, John didn’t just lose 60 lbs. He lost 120 lbs.

Thanks to John’s remarkable weight loss, he was cleared to have a kidney transplant. All he had to do was wait for the call.

He waited for the call alongside Rosa. John said she was his biggest supporter through this journey. John always tried to keep a positive mindset no matter how bleak things seemed. Certain times were really dark, but John didn’t want that to fall on anyone else. He suggested to her to continue on with her life and go travel while he was going through this — she said, “I’m not going anywhere.” Rosa was there for John throughout the entire process.

On Christmas Eve, John and Rosa were eating lunch when the phone rang. They had a kidney for John.

By the evening John was at the hospital, and being run through tests. Late that night they cleared him for the transplant, and he woke up on Christmas morning with a new kidney.

Ever since, John has put forward his time into giving back to those who helped him, and those who are going through similar health issues as he did.

He created a challenge to raise money for St. Michaels and St Joes. hospitals called, “Johnny D’s 24/7 Challenge.” His goal was to swim 24 hours over a seven-day period, in honour of those with any organ disease. The idea was that anyone suffering from organ diseases have to deal with their problem for 24 hours a day, seven days per week, so he wanted to do something he loved for 24 hours in a seven-day span, for those who can’t. John ended up swimming 45 kilometres over the 24 hours.

Ever since, John has been coming to Variety Village to swim everyday, and continues to give back to those suffering from organ problems.