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New technology allows local organ donations to help mainland patients

Surgeons performed more than 21,000 kidney transplants and 8,000 liver transplants in 2018, according the United Network for Organ Sharing.
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Surgeons performed more than 21,000 kidney transplants and 8,000 liver transplants in 2018, according the United Network for Organ Sharing.

New technology is helping Legacy of Life Hawai‘i give the gift of life to people outside of our islands.

The nonprofit has teamed with Paragonix Technologies to use a new kind of cooling device to transport organs for transplant to the mainland.

It maintains the organs at a temperature between 4 and 9 degrees Fahrenheit, unlike traditional methods of using a cooler and ice, which aren’t able to regulate temperature.

Legacy of Life Hawaiʻi Director of Clinical Services Felicia Wells-Williams said the technology helps ensure transplantable organs don’t go unused.

"Primarily, our intent is to help people in Hawaiʻi. So if we recover a kidney or liver and it can be used locally, that is you know, usually the intent of the family," Wells-Williams said.

"But in those circumstances where there's not a candidate locally who can use a transplant, we have an obligation to honor that gift by making sure we can get it to someone who can use it," she added.

Wells-Williams said Legacy of Life Hawai‘i recently used the space-age-looking rolling cooler to successfully transport a lung and liver to mainland patients.

"I just want to encourage everyone to really think about their own personal decision to be a donor and, if you want to be a donor, to make your wishes known. Check the box on your driver's license. Share your wishes with your family, so that should the time come where you can give that gift, that you will," she said.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Dec. 15, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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