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Misinformation, lack of education among reasons life-saving organs are denied

Reyn Kimura enjoyed life like anyone in their 30s, until his family started to notice he looked orange ― a symptom of liver failure.
Published: Apr. 14, 2022 at 5:15 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 14, 2022 at 5:35 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Reyn Kimura enjoyed life like anyone in their 30s, until his family started to notice he looked orange ― a symptom of liver failure.

“It just hit me one time, like a huge wrecking ball, just out of nowhere. And I’m here now,” said Kimura, who’s been lying in a bed at The Queen’s Medical Center for about six weeks.

“I focus on God a lot to help bring me through all this. ... It’s a grind. It’s a grind. It’s definitely a battle.”

And it’s not just his life that changed completely.

“[My family and I] used to love traveling. We want to see more of my my niece in Japan. They can’t do that right now. I feel like it just me so it just hurts to see my family suffer as much as I am,” he said.

Kimura needs a liver transplant and has been waiting since last August.

“Living on an island, I know it’s very hard to come about with our population and what not compared to the mainland,” he said. “It’s just the anticipation is just grueling. And here, you know, you constantly going through tests and different results every day, good or bad. It’s just been a crazy roller coaster.”

More than 350 people in Hawaii are waiting for a life-saving organ, but there are not enough donors.

“It’s been particularly difficult week by week watching Reyn get sicker and sicker and all of our other patients get sicker while waiting for organs,” said Dr. Linda Wong, a transplant surgeon.

She urges people to have conversations about organ donation now, rather than leave the difficult decision to families after they’ve died. “They can’t get past the grief to make that decision of donating an organ and as result they don’t,” she said.

Legacy of Life Hawaii works with families of potential organ donors and waiting patients.

“Organ donation is really very rare. Many people will say they want to be a donor, but because organ donation is so specific, patients have to be have to die in a certain way,” said Felicia Wells-Williams, director of clinical services for Legacy of Life Hawaii.

In Hawaii, only about 100 families are asked to donate each year, and last year, half of them said no.

Among the reasons: A lack of information and fear about the process.

“Many times people are afraid that if they say they want to be a donor, that we’re not going to do everything we can to take care of them,” Williams said.

But she says that’s not true. Being a donor doesn’t affect your level of care.

Kimura admits he never thought about organ donations.

“I see it on my IDs, the choice to put it, I always did not. Not knowing exactly what it’s all about, but going through this personally kind of made me realize how important this is,” Kimura said.

“It obviously makes a huge difference in someone’s life and their family and their family’s well-being.”

Legacy of Life is urging people to sign up for the organ donor registry and help save someone like Kimura.

“You’re giving it to someone who will take this gift of life, a new life for them,” Kimura said.

“And they want to make the person that they see they’re from proud as well. We know the sacrifice and all the tragedy they had to endure on their part.”

So while losing a loved one is devastating, it can also bring hope.

To register to be an organ, eye and tissue donor, sign up at RegisterMe.org.

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