HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - By: Paolo DiGiovanni
The Queen's Medical Center on Friday marked its one-year anniversary of performing liver and kidney transplants.
In a short ceremony, Queen's CEO Art Ushijima and transplant surgeon Alan Cheung celebrated the transplant center's 31 organ transplants in 2012.
Liver transplant recipient Sarah Chee, with her 5-month-old baby in hand, called her surgery "lifesaving."
"I was able to get married, and five and a-half months ago I was able to give birth. It's amazing. It's a miracle," she said.
Although her operation happened before Hawai'i Medical Center East closed its transplant center in 2011, she was worried for other transplant hopefuls, until Queen's stepped in.
Howard Asao was on the kidney transplant list when HMC closed.
"When the news broke out that it was going to be closed and they called us all in, they said, 'We will keep you on the list. But if an organ comes available to you, you would need to go to the mainland '" he said.
But that would be expensive. He would have to pay for transportation and housing. He said the thought of leaving the islands and his family was too much to ask. For now Queen's offers kidney and liver transplants. It anticipates getting approval for cardiac and pancreatic transplants later this year.
Queen's surgeons performed 19 kidney transplants and 12 liver transplants in 2012. Ushijima said that number will go up this year..
"Prior to the closing of the (HMC) program there were about 70 or 80 transplants done," he said. "I would expect that we will, if not exceed that, we will certainly meet that number of transplants because as long as the available organs are there, there will be a patient ready to be a recipient."
He said as science evolves, so will new transplant methods for those in need, but organ donation will remain the key for saving lives.
"She wouldn't be here without donation" Chee said of her daughter, Alex. "I wouldn't be here without donations."