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Organ donor registry sets online goal


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POSTED: Thursday, April 02, 2009

Cheryl Rabago of Waipahu owes her life to the donor of a kidney and pancreas, transplanted Sept. 22, 2007.

Renee Sambueno of Kalihi, diagnosed with kidney disease in December, is under consideration for the transplant list.

The two emphasized the lifesaving importance of organ donations at yesterday's launch of an online organ donor registry on http://www.donatelifehawaii.com.

The registry has begun with an ambitious goal to register 25,000 donors the first year.

With about 370 patients on the waiting list for organ transplants, “;it's not unreasonable,”; said Edward Ontai, Catholic Charities vice president for administration and Organ Donor Center of Hawaii president.

Every registered donor potentially could save one or more lives.

Among those attending the event in the Queen's Conference Center was Dr. Livingston Wong, who pioneered kidney and bone marrow transplants starting in 1969.

“;I think it's wonderful,”; he said. “;A lot more is needed.”;

Stephen Kula, executive director of the Organ Donor Center, said a state law last year facilitated establishment of the registry — without any state money.

Concerned agencies formed a coalition, developed a plan and raised $110,000 to cover the $70,000 cost for the software and database. The rest of the money will be used to educate the public on organ donations, Kula said.

Four computers were available for people to sign up on the online registry, which Kula demonstrated. The database is at a secure facility in California, he said.

An interactive educational Web site, it dispels myths and answers almost any question anyone could have about organ donations.

So far this year, the Organ Donor Center has had only four donors for transplant patients. “;It's pretty poor,”; he said.

Sixteen people died last year waiting for donors.

“;It's something we can change,”; said Sen. Josh Green (D, Milolii-Waimea), a Big Island emergency physician and Senate Health Committee vice chairman.

“;Someday the number will be zero,”; he said, because of efforts to educate people about organ donations. “;Tell people not to be afraid. If we die, there is something more to give still, and it's a blessing.”;

Sambueno, 53, grants coordinator and community liaison for U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, said her kidney problems were due to high blood pressure medicine for 10 or more years.

Had she known her kidneys would fail, she would have done what was needed to reduce her blood pressure, she said. “;You're young. You think you're invincible.”;

The medicine she was taking was different from what is prescribed today for high blood pressure, and her doctor changed it when he diagnosed her disease, she said.

Since May 2007 she has gone to dialysis three times a week with “;two needles stuck in my arm every time,”; she said.

Rabago, 32-year-old mother of an 8-year-old boy, said she had been taking insulin since age 10 for type 1 diabetes. After the birth of her child, she suffered high blood pressure and cholesterol and was constantly ill, she said.

“;I was in denial for a while — 'Nothing can happen to me.' Then I went to the doctor, and he said I could develop renal failure.”;

Rabago said she “;was desperate to live for my future and my child”; and went on transplant lists for a kidney/pancreas here, in Las Vegas and San Francisco.