Hawai’i, the state for heart transplants

The Garden Island recently told the story of an Arizona man and his fiancee who came to Kaua’i to get married because, as he told staff writer Lester Chang, “it is the prettiest place in the world.” It also was another chapter in the man’s newfound life as a successful heart transplant recipient. And he couldn’t have picked a better place—not just for the scenery, but also because he can surely relate to Hawaii’s reputation for coming through for patients in need of new organs.

The federal Health Care Financing Administration this month formally recognized the Organ Donor Center of Hawai’i (ODCH) for its 62 percent increase in donors and overall performance. The improvement comes at a time when organ donations are flat worldwide.

From 1998 to 1999, ODCH outperformed all other western states by increasing the number of organ donors from 16 to 26 and the number of organ recoveries from 43 to 80. The result: 70 patients received life-saving transplants. And everyone on Hawaii’s waiting list received a new heart last year.

In addition, ODCH was hailed for its breakthrough in being able to transfer hearts to the mainland when there aren’t any available there. Until recently, Hawai’i couldn’t accept hearts that wouldn’t be used locally.

Robyn Kaufman, ODCH executive director, said the improvements reflect “the generosity and aloha spirit of people in Hawai’i, as well as a dedicated and professional staff.” We couldn’t agree more.

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