Isle organ donors drop amid record high in '08


POSTED: Sunday, February 15, 2009

A record 37 organ donors saved many lives in Hawaii last year, but donors are declining here and nationally, says Stephen Kula, Organ Donor Center of Hawaii executive director.




Sign up as an donor

        » Tell your family you want to be an organ donor so your wish will be carried out.

» You can register as an organ donor on your driver's license or sign an organ donor card.


» To obtain a donor card, call the Organ Donor Center of Hawaii at 599-7630 on Oahu or (877) 855-0603 (toll free) from the neighbor islands.


» For more information, call the center or visit its Web site, organdonorhawaii.com.


There has been only one donor in the past three months, he said.

Meanwhile, the number of people dying on the wait list for an organ transplant has risen, Kula said. “;I hope this isn't a down trend, but when it goes a couple months with very few donors, we've got to look at what's happening,”; he said.

Kula said nearly 400 people are on the wait list, most needing a kidney, liver or pancreas. Sixteen patients died last year while waiting for a transplant and 46 were removed from the list. Twelve were too sick to continue, Kula said. Others went elsewhere for transplants or dropped off the list for unknown reasons.

Heart donors saved four lives last year - a record for Hawaii, he said. No hearts were donated in 2007.

Last year, there were 19 organ donors, 18 organ and tissue donors, and 51 tissue donors - a total of 88. Skin donations often are used in hernia operations, and bones and tendons are used for sport and other injuries.

Of the 37 total organ donors, 119 organs were recovered, of which 95 were transplanted.

The highest number of Hawaii organ donors previously was 29 in 2003.

A national study found nine out of 10 people supported organ donations but only 34 percent were designated donors, Kula said.

“;I think it's a lack of people knowing they can donate and the importance of donating,”; he said. “;We're getting a lot more refusals.”;






Total number of patients on Hawaii's waiting list for organ transplantations




» Of those, 323 are waiting for a kidney, 51 for a liver, and four for a kidney and pancreas.


» The longest wait is for a kidney, with 59 on the list and five or more years for that organ.


» Eight have waited five or more years for a liver.




Those waiting three to five years include 61 for a kidney, 14 for a liver and one for a kidney/pancreas.


Source: Organ Procurement & Transplantation Network (www.unos.org)


In the past, 60 percent to 70 percent of families agreed to donate organs of their loved one, but that has dropped into the 40s, Kula said.

“;Even though we educate them and they say they support it, when it comes down to doing it, it's a whole different thing, a crisis situation, and a lot of people don't want to deal with it.”;

Hawaii has just below 40 percent of drivers registered as donors and the Organ Donor Center hopes to increase that number with a Web site starting April 1 where anyone can sign up as a donor, Kula said.

He commended the Legislature for passing a bill to establish a State Donor Registry Support Program to enhance the driver's license program and for passing the revised Uniform Anatomical Gift Act to facilitate the donation process.

The center received more than $100,000 from private donors to start the interactive online organ donor registry, he said. The site will be used to educate people about organ donations, Kula said.

“;It will allow them to e-mail or send a letter to relatives to say what we have done,”; he said, stressing the importance of family knowing their loved one's wishes. “;A lot of times, even though a donor is registered, the family still says no.”;

Only organ procurement coordinators will have access to the database, he said. The center now has to call the police department and have them do the database search with the Division of Motor Vehicles, he said. “;With the new legislation, it will be linked and automatically updated.”;