Donated organs sent to mainland instead of staying in Hawaii

Chad Kolomalu
Chad Kolomalu
Jan Kolomalu, Chad's mom
Jan Kolomalu, Chad's mom

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An empty wheelchair sits motionless in the room but its presence speaks volumes as a family remembers 20 year old Chad Kolomalu.  He is the loved one who used that wheelchair and passed away last week.

"It's hard losing Chad, but it's really comforting knowing that he is helping many people, not just one but several," said Jan Kolomalu, Chad's mom.

When Chad was 15 he jumped off the wall in Waikiki with some friends.

"He hit the surface wrong and he said he just went numb," explained Kolomalu.

He became a quadriplegic but with his family's love and support he lead a happy life and graduated high school.  But unexpectedly earlier this month there were complications.

"It was very sudden he was fine in the morning when we left," said Kolomalu.

He died last Monday, January 9.  He always knew he'd be an organ donor, given the fact that his dad and aunt both died of kidney failure before they were able to receive a transplant.

"We actually donated everything that we could.  Anything that Chad could give we gave," said Kolomalu.  "The hospital talked to us about organ donation and I had said yes absolutely that's what my son would have wanted."

But since Hawaii Medical Center was unable to keep its East Hospital in Liliha open, the state's only transplant center is closed.  Now organs go directly to the mainland.

The Kolomalu family is of course thankful two people in Washington are living with Chad's kidneys.

Although had the center been open in Hawaii it's likely one of the nearly 400 people on the wait list here would have been the recipient.  About a dozen non-kidney patients have moved to the mainland to wait for a donor, however it is more costly and difficult.  The rest are hoping a new transplant center opens at Queens Medical Center.  Efforts to open that new transplant center are being fast tracked.  The state issued the certificate of need which was the first hurdle.  Now they're waiting on federal approval and could possibly open as early as February.

"Pray they get the certification," said Stephen Kula, PhD. Executive Director Legacy of Life Hawaii, which coordinates the organ donation efforts in the state.

Until the new transplant center opens Legacy of Life is happy to help people live, no matter where they live.

"I'm very proud to be from Hawaii and the fact that we are continuing to have the donations we have is not unnoticed by the rest of the country," said Kula.

State lawmakers may also give $2.7 million to Queen's Medical Center to help start up a new transplant center quickly.  Lawmakers start meeting again this Wednesday.

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