In Death, A Hawaii Man Gives The Gift Of Life

Darryl Ing
Darryl Ing
Meredith Thompson
Meredith Thompson

(KHNL) - A Hawaii man's tragic death has brought new hope to the medical community by saving another man's life. And those responsible are being honored today.

When a local, 22-year-old man died from a head injury, his family mourned, but part of him lives on. He chose to become an organ donor, and his lungs were saved, breathing new life to a dying man in California.

"He was a 24-year-old man that was very sick in the hospital prior to getting his transplant," said Meredith Thompson, a transplant coordinator with the Organ Donor Center of Hawaii. "He was literally days away from death."

A collaborative effort involved the medical, police and aviation communities, and a medical milestone was achieved. For the first time, lungs from Hawaii were successfully transplanted to a mainland recipient.

"What it's done is it's demonstrated to the nation that lung transport -- cold transport from Hawaii to the West Coast -- can also be done from New York to California or California to New York. The impact is huge," said Darryl Ing, the executive director of the Organ Donor Center of Hawaii.

Today, five organizations are honored for their role in this medical miracle.

"I think I have the most amazing job in the world because I'm able to offer families at a time of intense loss and grief, a little glimmer of hope," said Thompson.

Hope that part of their loved one lives on. In their loss, a life is saved.

"One of the literal translations of aloha is breath of life," said Thompson. "And so since that time, we have coined this donor the 'aloha donor' because he literally gave the breath of life to another individual."

Spreading aloha even after his death.

About 94,000 Americans are waiting for organ transplants; close to 370 here in Hawaii. The lung transplant surgery on the California man was successful. He is doing just fine. In fact, he proposed to his girlfriend while still in the hospital. She said yes, and they are now husband and wife.