Aiea Man Receives Gift of Life as Organ Donor Numbers Drop

Aaron Okubo
Aaron Okubo
Stanley Kajioka
Stanley Kajioka

AIEA (KHNL) - Some local doctors are worried a new and disturbing trend in Hawaii will leave many people to die waiting for an organ transplant.  Over the last 10 years, Hawaii's organ donor numbers slowly improved, until now. In just the past few months 9 local families said no to organ donation.

According to St Francis transplant surgeon Dr. Linda Wong there are 363 people in Hawaii waiting for an organ transplant in this state.  In 2005 only 55% of the potential donors actually became donors because family members agreed to allow their loved ones organs to be donated.

So far this year only 40% of potential organ donations actually went through because 25 families decided not to give consent even though the donor intended to.

Doctors, counselors, and donor education groups can't explain why so many families are saying no to organ donation in Hawaii.

While many patients die waiting for a transplant, an Aiea man admits he is one of the lucky ones. Aaron Okubo just received the gift of life and he's getting some extraordinary help from a stranger who's been through the same thing.

52 Year old Aaron Okubo is going in for his transplant checkup at St Francis Medical Center.  It's been 3 months since he received not one but two gifts of life, a liver and a kidney.

Doctors first diagnosed him with a liver condition back in April.  "So my wife took me to the emergency at Saint Francis then I found out that my liver and kidney was shutting down", Okubo said

As Okubo gets the thumbs up from his surgeon, Stanley Kajioka is going in for his medical check-up too.  Okubo is a newbie at this, but Kajioka will celebrate his one year liver transplant anniversary next week.  Kajioka knows what Okubo is going through and thanks to the American Liver Foundation; the two are now linked up as transplant support buddies.

Kajioka said, "When I found out about him, I wanted to talk to him".  Okubo added, "He gave me some information on what to expect and what to do.  He came to visit me in the hospital with some gloves and a mask. So, that was real helpful.

It's an emotional time for Okubo, since he just realized had it not been for a generous family saying yes to organ donation, he wouldn't be sitting here sharing his story.

Okubo said, "I thank God they found a match and a donor because after I got the transplant I found out that I had about a week or two left (to live). And, if I hadn't of gotten the transplant I wouldn't be here today".

In fact, he is doing so well, it's now time to take his protective mask and gloves off and get back to doing the things he enjoys.  And, he has a new friend, Stanley Kajioka, to hare good times.

Okubo said, "You know, I'd like to go see a football game, or just get together".

Okubo and Kajioka plan to lean on each other, and spread the message of the Aloha spirit and the gift of life.

It's important to remember, even if you request organ donation when you die, and it's listed on your driver's license, your family members have the final say.  That's why the Organ Donor Center of Hawaii says, it's important that you let your family members know, so they can carry out your final wishes.