Future For Bone Marrow Patients, Donors Uncertain

Hawaii Bone Marrow Registry Scrambling To Partner With Other Hospitals

 UPDATED 5:40 AM HST Dec 22, 2011
HONOLULU -

Patients are reeling with the news that they may have to travel to the mainland now that their transplant surgeries have been called off.

35-year-old Esther Aiolupotea was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia in November. She had been cancer free for five years and was prepared to battle again.

She was set to begin a 7-day regimen of high dose chemotherapy and then a bone marrow transplant Monday. Her doctor broke the bad news two days ago: the transplant can't happen in Hawaii now that the Hawaii Medical Center has decided to shut its doors.

"I pray every day. I am not on chemo and I still have leukemia. So it can easily spread rapidly," said Aiolupotea. I am just living one day at a time and praying for a miracle.?

The Kalihi mom wants nothing more than to heal for her children. But now she's caught in this unfortunate situation. She hopes to know Friday if her insurance will cover the transplant in Seattle. Across town, the Hawaii Bone Marrow Registry held its last drive of the year. At this Ward Starbucks location alone over the past two years, it has registered 1000 potential donors. As part of a national organization recruiters assured they will still hold bone marrow drives and fundraisers. but they are trying to partner with other hospitals.

"We started scrambling since Friday and looking into different options and we have been very busy," said Roy Yonashiro.

He does lament the loss of the relationship of a transplant team that has stuck it out under various owners.

?The employees stayed on. The staff stayed the doctors stayed on, and that never changed their love for us has never faltered. That is what we are going to miss. Yonashiro said.

The challenge is that like Esther Aiolupotea, donors may have to fly off island. Even with the setbacks of the last few days, this transplant patient is keeping positive. She hopes if she has her surgery soon, she can be back to enjoy bananas in her back yard.

She counts herself lucky that both a brother and sister are matches. She is thankful for the support of her family. And yet, she worries for other dozen or more bone marrow transplant patients who are in the same predicament.

?It?s a long process of waiting, and I don?t know how much longer I can wait,? Aiolupotea said.

Her family and friends are trying to organize a fundraiser to help deal with the unexpected expense. They have been told if she goes to Seattle, it may be 3 to 4 months before she can return to her children.

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