Friday, May 21, 1999

Sacred Falls
victim gave ‘gift
of life’ to others

Five patients here and on the
mainland received organs
from the donor

By Helen Altonn



Because of a liver donated by a Sacred Falls landslide victim, the three children of Scott Carr, 30, of Kaneohe, won't grow up without their father.

Carr is one of at least five patients here and on the mainland who received a "gift of life" from the unidentified donor, according to the Transplant Institute at St. Francis Medical Center.

Joyce Nekoba, transplant nursing coordinator at the institute, said two Hawaii residents received the kidneys, and the pancreas went to a Massachusetts patient.

University of California Los Angeles surgeons flew here on a UCLA jet and picked up the heart for a 39-year-old patient who would have died in 48 hours, she said. The heart had to be transplanted within five to six hours.

It was the only heart donation in Hawaii this year, she said.

Although two local people are waiting for heart transplants, Nekoba said the need at UCLA was more critical. The blood type and size of the organ also must be about the same between the donor and recipient, and there was no match here, she said.

She said the kidney transplant patients, still at St. Francis, "are doing okay. One is doing very good."

Donna Pacheco, also a transplant coordinator, said Carr celebrated his 30th birthday the day after the May 12 liver transplant.

"He's just an amazing young man," she said. "This gives him a chance to watch his children grow up, and he wasn't going to get that."

Carr, who works at the city Parks Department nursery, was diagnosed 10 years ago with a rare degenerative liver disease.

He was running out of time for a transplant, Pacheco said.

"We were going into the last few weeks here. He had been in and out of the hospital four or five times in the last couple months."

The liver he received was the first donated in Hawaii this year. About 16 other people are waiting for a liver transplant, Pacheco said.

The need is severe, particularly among Asians and Pacific islanders because many minority groups don't donate organs, she said.

"It's a very hard situation and we're starting to see more people die waiting. We had two heart patients die this year waiting, and one liver patient. We used to keep up with it and people wouldn't die waiting so much."

Now, she said, "It's scary."

Even if an organ is available, she said, "Sometimes it's just the roll of the dice. You have to have blood type compatibility and, with the heart and liver, you have to have a reasonable size match.

"We may have donors and they don't match the size and blood type. Because we have more and more people on the list, because the need is so great, waits become longer, so people become sicker.

"It is very sad. Then you see this young man (Carr) so critically ill up and walking around in one week. It's a miracle.

"We have all this technology but we can't supply what is needed most, and it has to be a gift _ the ultimate gift."

Hawaii last year ranked among the worst states for organ donations.

It's doing better this year, said Chris Carroll, clinical supervisor at the Organ Donor Center of Hawaii.

At the end of April last year, there were only three organ donors. By the end of April this year there were eight, he said.

The result: 16 kidneys, eight livers and one heart.

Separate donations provided eight heart valves, 18 bones and 30 eyes, according to the Hawaii Chapter, National Kidney Foundation.

Last year, 43 vital organs were recovered from a total of 16 donors and 39 patients received life-saving transplants, Carroll said.

As of today, 192 people are waiting for organ transplants: 179 for kidneys, including two who also need a pancreas, 13 for livers and two for hearts.

"Typically, about one person a month dies waiting for an organ to become available," Carroll said.

"The unfortunate part is these are our friends and neighbors. They are dying, not because we lack medicine and surgery to save their lives, but people say no to donation, or donors aren't identified by hospital staff.

"The frustrating thing is every year in this country, we bury half of the transplantable organs," Carroll added.

The Organ Donor Center is trying to change that through public education and new services, such as free counseling to donor families, he said.

For more information about organ donations, call 599-7630.

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