An 18-year-old's death from a stroke can aid four to five people who need transplants
STAR BULLETIN, HONOLULU
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Apr 21, 2010
"That is the bittersweet side of it," said Stephen Kula yesterday.
The reigning Miss Hawaii Teen United States and Miss Hawaii Teen Princess was declared brain dead Monday at the Queen's Medical Center, and her organs were recovered yesterday for transplantation.
It was what the 18-year-old Mililani High School student and her family wanted, Kula said.
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Normally with an organ donor, Kula said, "We can help out four to five people with a heart, two kidneys, liver and pancreas." Skin, bones, veins, eyes and valves, if a heart is not to be processed, also can benefit others, he said.
"It's a tragic situation, but the legacy she's leaving for the families who will receive her organs is rebirth for them. She's giving back families their lives."
Alan and Estrella Wolfe, Sheryl's parents, "can feel comfort in that they are leaving a living legacy," Kula added.
The sudden death of the beauty queen, who collapsed in class on April 13, stunned friends and others in the pageant community. They were asking how it could happen to an apparently healthy young woman who played soccer, ran track and field and had a promising modeling career ahead.
She was planning to compete in the Miss Hawaii Teen World Pageant next month with hopes of winning and going on to the national competition.
Her parents said a brain scan showed extensive bleeding, which caused a hemorrhagic stroke.
Dr. Douglas Valenta, a Queen's neurohospitalist who cares for neurology patients, was not Wolfe's attending physician and said he did not know her case, but discussed strokes in general. He said it is rare for a young person to have a stroke. In general, one to two strokes per 100,000 population occur in people from ages 18 to 45, he said.
About 85 percent of strokes are ischemic, he said, which occur because of an obstruction in a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. About 15 percent are hemorrhagic strokes, which result from a ruptured vessel, causing blood to leak into the brain.
Sheryl Wolfe's family donated her two kidneys, pancreas and liver to patients waiting for transplants.
"You can have ischemic strokes that can convert to hemorrhagic components," Valenta said. "Numbers are in favor of more ischemic strokes, but in the hospital we see young people with hemorrhagic strokes more often than older folks."
He said about 10 percent of stroke patients in Hawaii are under age 55.
One of the more common causes is an abrupt injury inside a blood vessel or rupture of the lining that results in a blood clot, which breaks loose and leads to a stroke, he said. Other possible causes are vascular malformation, an aneurysm or brain tumor, he said.
Dr. Raul Rudoy, chairman of pediatrics at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children, said a stroke in a young person is "a very unusual event." But it can happen at any time if someone is born with malformation of blood vessels that are not as strong as they are supposed to be, he said. "This is probably one of the major reasons we have hemorrhage strokes in pediatric patients."