In a time of year when we’re consumed with giving gifts to others, here’s a thought: consider giving the Gift of Life through organ and tissue donation.
Irving “Irv” Pifer, from Ninole, received such a gift this year, and will have a Merry Christmas because of it. Having struggled with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease for 12 years, Irv was dependent on an oxygen tank for four years, which greatly limited his mobility, especially difficult for a teacher at Hawaii Community Correction Center in Hilo.
Doctors told Irv in 2008 that his only hope for a second chance at life was a lung transplant.
“I’ve been given the ultimate gift,” Pifer said. “I have everything to be thankful for, and I am determined to make the most of each day. Each additional day I have is a gift I will always cherish.”
Irv Pifer (Photo courtesy of Legacy of Life Hawaii)
Pifer spent almost a year on the transplant waiting list, and while hopeful that he would receive the lungs he needed, he was acutely aware that the 2009 Christmas he spent with his wife, Donna, their three children and seven grandchildren, may have been his last.
“Last Christmas was another day in a long string of days when I didn’t know if it would be my last… wondering if I was ever going to get the call,” he said.
Pifer received his double-lung transplant in May of 2009, just seven months ago, and is completely recovered. His donor was an Oahu resident.
Unfortunately, this may be the last Christmas for close to 20 people in Hawaii, which is approximately how many people die each year while waiting for organs that never come.
This public health crisis becomes a bigger catastrophe daily, with one name added to the U.S. transplant waiting list every 10 minutes. In Hawaii’s tight-knit communities, we watch our keiki, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, moms and dads, aunties and uncles, lose their lives waiting for organ transplants.
There are more than 100,000 people in the U.S. waiting for organ transplants, almost 400 of those residing in Hawaii.
Founded in 1987, Legacy of Life Hawaii (formerly Organ Donor Center of Hawaii) saves and enhances lives by recovering organs and tissue for transplant.
Legacy of Life Hawaii encourages donation through professional and public education, while honoring those who have left a legacy of life through organ, tissue and eye donation.