CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Ardell Lien, 70, and wife Maureen smiled yesterday as they sat in his sailboat at the Hawaii Yacht Club. Lien, who had a heart and kidney transplant in 2003, is attempting to circumnavigate the globe solo aboard his 27-foot boat, Catalyst.
Transplant patient sets
sail to demonstrate
the gift of life
By his own account, 70-year-old Ardell Lien is doing something "outrageous."
A little more than two years after receiving a heart and kidney transplant, the Minnesota native is attempting to circumnavigate the globe alone in his 27-foot sailboat to give hope to other transplant patients.
"By doing something outrageous, I hope to show potential donors and recipients this can happen, you can go back to lead a normal life," said Ardell, who arrived in Honolulu from San Diego on May 31, the first leg of his 27,000-mile journey. He plans to leave Monday for Fanning Island and American Samoa.
The arduous trip ahead doesn't seem to faze him much. About 10 years ago, he embarked on a different and more challenging journey altogether when he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. He was given five years to live.
As positive as he was, Lien had a feeling his life was coming to an end.
For nearly a month in 2002, medications kept him alive before receiving a heart transplant.
"He was definitely almost dead and we're so fortunate," said his wife, Maureen, who joined him here this week with two of their three children and some of their grandchildren.
With his globe-trotting trip, Lien, who retired from the Army as a captain after 23 years in the military, wants to demonstrate that recovery from transplant surgery "can be complete, total, absolute."
His wife says she has other things to worry about now. The San Diego-Oahu leg of the trip might have been a breeze, but tough challenges lie ahead.
"It's dangerous and it's strenuous, but we sailed for seven years before the transplant. He's so thankful to be able to do something," she said.
"He's been planning this from day one of his heart transplant. They kept him alive, I think, in that hospital by telling him, 'Just hang in there. We're going to get you a heart, and you're going to go sailing again.'"
His route will take him to Fiji, Vanuatu, Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea and Darwin, Australia. From there he plans to sail across the Indian Ocean to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, where he will fly to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for his annual January checkup. Then he will fly back to Africa to complete the voyage, which could last 17 months.
Some people have dubbed his small boat the Gift of Life, which is what he received with his transplants Jan. 2, 2003, at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
The experienced sailor said his trip's purpose is to "increase the awareness of need for organs."
And that is just the kind of publicity welcomed by organ donor organizations.
"People don't realize a transplant is a life-changing event, and you can live a normal life," said Kendra Sims, coordinator of the Organ Donor Center of Hawaii. "He's still able to fulfill his dreams. It's a wonderful promotion he's doing for organ donations."
Sims encourages residents to discuss organ donations with their families and put the wish on their driver's license. For more information, call the Organ Donor Center at 599-7630 on Oahu or 877-855-0603 toll-free from neighbor islands.
To follow Lien's around-the-world sailing adventure, visit his Web site at www.organ-donation-for-life.com.