Need for organ donors great, despite record year

Cherilyn Robago
Cherilyn Robago
Dennis Cuizon
Dennis Cuizon

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Hawaii hits a milestone in saving lives. The Hawaii Organ Donor Center says 2008 is a record year for donations - four heart donors, compared to zero the year before.

One of the heart recipients, as well as a mother, share their story of how they were a transplant away from death.

32-year-old Cherilyn Robago holds a gift of a lifetime, one that allows her to hold her son closer, thanks to a pancreas and kidney transplant.

"I probably wouldn't be here. I wouldn't be here for my son who I really adore and love," said Robago.

Diabetic since age 10, the disease spiraled out of control after Robago had Christian.

"I was like kind of sad because she wasn't there for me," said 8-year-old Christian.

"Being on dialysis, it kills you. I couldn't even function. I would come home sick and just lay in bed all day. Now I'm ready to conquer the world!" said Robago.

And so is Dennis Cuizon, who's conquered near-death. His heart was set to fail by this year. But a donor changed his fate, and his outlook on life, the moment he woke up from surgery.

"For some reason, I started crying and I never did that before. I used to be a tough person. In the Filipino culture men don't cry," said Cuizon.

Walking on stairs no longer puts Cuizon at risk of cardiac arrest, and aqua therapy has strengthened his heart physically, and mentally.

"I said, let me go through the whole pool, I know I can do the whole pool so I went underwater again and went all the way to the other end and came up - wow! I started going back and forth back and forth. I was going crazy!" said Cuizon.

Two lives saved, both now devoted to saving others, by encouraging people to give the very gift that keeps them alive today.

"I want to be an inspiration to others, that you can go through a lot but with the grace of God and with the grace of amazing people in your life you can do it," said Robago.

In April, the very first online donor registry will be up, to encourage people to give.

The Organ Donor Center says the need for local donors is greater in Hawaii, because organs must be fresh.

So the closer the donor, the better chance a Hawaii patient has of surviving.