Categorized | Volunteering

Legacy of Life: A Time of Giving


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.

Make a difference this holiday season by registering to become an organ and tissue donor at

One Response to “Legacy of Life: A Time of Giving”

  1. David J Undis says:

    Irving “Irv” Pifer was very lucky to get a Lung transplant. There are now over 108,000 people on the National Transplant Waiting List, with over 50% of these people dying before they get a transplant. Most of these deaths are needless. Americans bury or cremate 20,000 transplantable organs every year.

    There is another good way to put a big dent in the organ shortage – if you don’t agree to donate your organs when you die, then you go to the back of the waiting list if you ever need an organ to live.

    Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. About 50% of the organs transplanted in the United States go to people who haven’t agreed to donate their own organs when they die.

    Anyone who wants to donate their organs to others who have agreed to donate theirs can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers is a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition. LifeSharers has over 14,300 members, including 70 members in Hawaii.

    Please contact me – Dave Undis, Executive Director of LifeSharers – if your readers would like to learn more about our innovative approach to increasing the number of organ donors. I can arrange interviews with some of our local members if you’re interested. My email address is My phone number is 615-351-8622.


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