Bone marrow drive
for Kauai boy draws 37

By Rosemarie Bernardo

Last November, 15-year-old Justin Komo bowled well below his 200-pin average in the state bowling competition on Kauai because of severe headaches.

When he returned to the Big Island, his parents' worst nightmare came true: Komo had a recurrence of acute myelogenous leukemia.

A four-hour bone marrow drive was held at First Insurance Co. of Hawaii yesterday to help Komo find a match. Thirty-seven people took a finger-stick blood test at the drive, said Marie Weite, president of First Insurance's community action team. The company will also donate $800 toward Komo's medical and travel expenses.

"Hopefully, we can find a match for him. That's the ultimate cure for him," said Komo's mother, Sheila Goto.

After the bowling tournament, doctors at Kapiolani Medical Center performed surgery after they discovered a tumor in the back of Komo's head that was blocking blood flow, Goto said.

The boy, currently a 10th-grader at Kealakehe High School, is resting at his Holualoa home after undergoing radiation treatment to his head and spine. Goto said Komo has been trying to regain his strength until he returns to Oahu for further treatment.

On June 6, 2001, Komo left his Kealakehe Intermediate School graduation banquet early when doctors diagnosed him with acute myelogenous leukemia.

The leukemia develops when a defect occurs in the immature cells of the bone marrow. Symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath and paleness due to the lack of red blood cells.

Goto said she first noticed her son being "really tired and out of breath" when he played baseball. Komo also started getting bruises on his body.

"We knew he didn't get hit by a ball or anything," she said.

When he was first diagnosed with leukemia, Komo underwent chemotherapy that caused him to lose about 50 pounds and all his hair.

Komo was in remission for more than a year when he started experiencing severe headaches.

Following his surgery, Komo suffered adverse effects to chemotherapy treatments such as rashes and loss of appetite.

Goto said she and other relatives have been tested to determine whether they are a match for Komo.

"We're just waiting," she added.

Komo's father, Jay Pacheco, said, "I try to be strong for my son so he can be strong for himself."

Those who are interested in becoming a bone marrow donor can contact the Hawaii Bone Marrow Donor Registry at St. Francis Medical Center at 547-6154.

E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --