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Thursday, February 10, 2000

saved many lives
last year

Community education and better
relations with hospitals are among
reasons organ donations increased

By Helen Altonn


Richard Stoicovy of Hilo will return to his job part time Tuesday with one of many life-saving gifts during a record Hawaii organ donation year in 1999.

The Hawaii Community College admissions counselor had a liver transplant Nov. 12 at St. Francis Medical Center.

"It's just a miracle," said Stoicovy, who turned 48 on Jan. 31. "My feelings and my heart just go out to the donor and the donor's family for their strength and courage and love throughout this whole ordeal."

Records were set last year for the total number of donors, the total number of kidneys recovered and the number of patients receiving transplants, the Organ Donor Center of Hawaii reported. Minority donations also increased.

Center director Robyn Kaufman attributed the increases to revamping of the center's clinical services and internal operations, community education and better working relationships with the hospitals.

"They're responding in a more timely, consistent manner, which gives us opportunities to talk to families," she said.

Transplants helped save lives

The center last year had 26 donors -- a 62 percent increase compared with 16 donations in 1998. Seventy people received transplants -- 80 percent more than the 39 transplant patients in 1998.

A record 52 kidneys were recovered, resulting in 49 life-saving kidney transplants --an increase of 104 percent over 1998.

There have been five donors so far this year, Kaufman said.

"We're just optimistic and hopeful this will continue," she said.

Despite last year's records, more than 200 people remain on the list waiting for transplants of various organs, said Donna Pacheco, heart and liver transplant coordinator at St. Francis Medical Center.


One person died every month in Hawaii last year because of a shortage of available donated organs, the Organ Donor Center said.

Stoicovy recognizes that he might have been one of those people.

He was diagnosed with a liver disease resulting from hepatitis B in 1980 while living on Guam, where he was born. He was hospitalized there about three years ago with serious complications.

"Doctors at that time gave me a 40 percent chance of surviving."

Leaving the hospital one day, his wife had an emotional breakdown and went into a church, he said. Members comforted her and sent a prayer team to the hospital.

Now his cup 'runneth over'

"From there on, it was a miracle recovery. Doctors were pretty shocked ... I continued to look more and more healthy."

He and his wife decided to move to the mainland to be closer to their four children. But after stopping in Hilo to visit friends, they decided to stay.

Stoicovy was able to function, but his liver was deteriorating and Hilo doctors referred him to transplant surgeon Linda Wong at St. Francis. He was listed for a transplant in December, 1998.

While in Honolulu last November, he decided to have a normal six-month checkup. He was surprised to see Pacheco with Wong when he walked in for his appointment. After asking how he was feeling, Wong said, "Well, are you ready for a new liver?' My first reaction was, "You're joking, right?'"

Stoicovy said he felt he had been "walking through the valley of the shadow of death" as in the Bible's Psalm 23. Now he says he's at the part where "my cup runneth over."

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