2012 News Stories

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The Queen's Transplant Center TeamFor some people, getting an organ transplant within a few weeks could mean the difference between life and death. Such was the case with a Hawai’i Medical Center patient who needed a liver transplant late last year. In November of 2011, he became the last patient to get a transplant before both HMC hospitals closed their doors, ending a program begun by St. Francis Medical Center over four decades ago. 

But there were others on the list. Transplant surgeon Linda Wong, MD, and other transplant staff joined with the staff of The Queen's Medical Center to rebuild the organ transplant program at Queen's in 82 days. "This is about a team of people, experienced and inexperienced in transplantation, coming together to rebuild a transplant program for a community," said Dr. Wong. "When Queen's stepped up to carry on the organ transplantation program in Hawai’i, it ushered in a new era in transplant services for the state." 

The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the national approval organization for organ transplantation, approved Queen's application to perform liver transplants on January 25, 2012. Requests to perform kidney, pancreas, and heart transplants are still under review by UNOS. Queen's has hired 16 employees to support the Queen's Transplant Center. A celebration was held at Queen's—"a celebration of life and second chances with the gift of life," as Dr. Wong put it.

 A 58-year-old man was on list. Without an organ transplant center in Hawai’i, he would have had to sell his house, quit his job, and move to the mainland. He knew that the program was being rebuilt at Queen's and felt confident that it would open in time. A week later, it did, and on March 8, he became Queen's first organ transplant patient. A short time later, Queen's performed a second liver transplant. "Queen's got a real good staff," said the patient. "They really take care of you. I got a second chance at life and I am grateful that Queen's stepped up." Dr. Wong performed the two liver transplantation surgeries at Queen's along with Makoto Ogihara, MD, and Hiroji Noguchi, MD.

Janie Lee, RN, Transplant Patient Care Coordinator, explained that after transplantation surgery, patients typically spend seven to nine days in the hospital and initially have to take up to 15 different medications. In a year, half of those may be discontinued, but patients will have to take two of them for the rest of their lives. Because transplant patients are more susceptible to infections, they must forever by aware of others who may be sick, especially in the first few months. "We do a lot of education on how to take care of their livers," she says, "and quiz them before they leave [the hospital]. We see them in the clinic for the rest of their lives."

 "We truly appreciate the extraordinary efforts of Dr. Wong and her team to launch this program here at Queen's," said Art Ushijima, QHS/QMC President. "The hard work and dedication that everyone…has displayed in support of the needs of these patients is inspirational."

Photo caption:
The Queen's Transplant Center Team

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