Wednesday, June 30, 1999

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Scott Carr talks about his liver transplant at
St. Francis Medical Center.

Landslide victim’s
liver a ‘gift of life’

A Kaneohe man, once on the
brink of death, tells of the
need for organ donors

By Helen Altonn


A family's tragedy in the Sacred Falls landslide was a miracle for his family, says Scott Carr.

His life was saved with a liver donated by a landslide victim.

"It's kind of hard not to have mixed feelings," Carr said. But he said, "It's not something I dwell on. ... It came at the right time for me."

Carr had a degenerative liver disease and was facing death within months when he received the "gift of life." He had a liver transplant May 12 -- the day before his 30th birthday.

The father of a 7-year-old girl and two boys, 5 and 1, Carr said, "I'm going to see them grow up and, hopefully, see my grandkids because of this."

Carr was allowed to begin driving Monday. He admits sneaking in a few earlier drives to a store near his Kaneohe home, but yesterday made his first big trip since March.

He drove to St. Francis Medical Center "to help put out the word" on the need for organ donors. He said he wants people to see "it works real good."

"It's like my wife says: You don't take your body with you when you die."

Carr said donating an organ is similar to having a baby, "passing on a gift of life. So it's something everybody should think about."

He said he has been an organ donor since getting his first driver's license at age 15. He said everyone in his family had talked about it, something which the Organ Donor Center of Hawaii urges people to do.

Donna Pacheco, transplant nursing coordinator at the Transplant Institute at St. Francis, said she can bear the losses of people who die waiting for organ transplants because of cases like Carr's. "He's doing phenomenally well," she said. "He's such a dynamic young man, even when he was critically ill."

A liver donation now is being urgently sought for Kenneth Terukina, 59, of Haleiwa, one of 18 people on the waiting list for a liver transplant. He was home until Sunday when he was admitted to the hospital with a worsening condition.

Carr said his diseased liver was diagnosed during exploratory surgery at Tripler Army Medical Center when he was 19.

About a year or two earlier, he was sick for three weeks with a bad case of food poisoning that was traced to hamburgers at a summer camp, he said.

"They think it backed up into my liver, the bacteria, but they didn't do a lot of tests then," he said.

The disease didn't affect his life until last year, when he began getting sick, he said. His doctor at Straub Hospital referred him to the transplant team last November, and by December he was on the transplant list, he said.

Until March, Pacheco said, "He certainly didn't look good but he didn't look critical." Then, "He fell off the edge. He became critically ill and was in and out of the intensive care unit weekly."

Carr said he was sick a few days every month and "drained of energy. I couldn't get out and do a lot of stuff. I was worn out."

He stopped his work as a landscaper for the city parks department. But, Pacheco said, "He just had an attitude if he stopped going he would not make it. He went to the point that he almost couldn't move before he stopped work."

By May, he was in critical condition with only weeks to months to live, said Dr. Linda Wong, transplant surgeon at St. Francis.

Two weeks after the transplant, he was planting vegetables at his home, she said.

"I feel great -- better than I have in the last few years," Carr said.

He plans to continue Windward Community College classes, which had been interrupted by his illness.

And he expects to return to his job in August, although he won't be able to lift 50-pound bags of fertilizer immediately. "I have a huge scar across my stomach," he said. "I've got to watch what I do."

He can't swim yet either because of some leaking in the area that housed a drainage tube, he said.

Carr said he's enjoying just being with his family. When he was in and out of the hospital, he said, "it really affected the kids."

When Pacheco told him May 12 they might have a liver for him, he recalled feeling excited and nervous. "The first thing, I called my wife." She got a baby-sitter, and he was in surgery by 10 p.m., he said. Carr said he didn't learn the circumstances of the landslide and death that led to his organ donation until after the transplant.

He hasn't met the donor's family, who live on the mainland.

"He will write a thank-you letter when he's ready," Pacheco said. "Then, it's up to the family."

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