For GOW (Grain Of Wheat Inc.)

Q1. Whom are you serving?

Most of our patients are heart or liver transplant patients coming from Japan to UCLA Medical Center without language skills or knowing anyone to depend on. Most of them are diagnosed that without organ transplant their expected lifetime is less than a year.

Q2. How old are your patients?

Their ages are from zero to in their sixty’s.

Q3. How long do they stay in the US?

The average stay is five to six months.

Q4. Who are serving in GOW?

GOW is a volunteer group. All of us have jobs, families, or schoolwork, and use spare time to serve patients and families. Some of them are certified nurses, pharmacists, social workers, or teachers in Japan or in the US. Some of them have been inspired to pursue medical careers. They make commitments to serve at least three months and participate in a quarterly meeting.

For Organ Transplant

Q5. What is organ transplant?

Organ transplant is a remarkable treatment by replacing end-staged failing organs to new healthy donated organs.
Donors can be:

1) living (ex. kidneys, liver)
2) deceased (heart, liver, lungs, intestine)

Deceased donor can be cadaveric (heart has stopped beating) or brain-dead.
In the last twenty years brain-dead donors are the majority for organ transplants in the US. Deceased organs are kept viable by machines such as a ventilator for organ transplant.

Q6 How come patients are coming to the US from Japan for organ transplant?

Japan passed the organ transplant law in 1997, but has few organ donors. According to the Japan Organ Transplant Network, while 12,169 people are waiting for organ transplants as of 8/31/09, brain dead donors were only 5, cadaveric dead donors were 77, and only 166 people received transplant surgeries during the same year. On 7/13/09 a new transplant law was passed, which removed the donor age limit (in the previous law, you had to be 15 or older to be an organ donor.), and allows for an organ donation by a family’s will unless there is a clear preceding denial of the donation from the deceased. However, because Japan is still reluctant to give organs, patients who can’t afford to wait for organ transplants in Japan go overseas to seek suitable donors. .

Q7. How come Japanese are reluctant to give organs?

When the Japan’s first heart transplant was performed by Dr. Wada at Sapporo Medical University in 1969, so many things were questioned that Dr Wada was accused as a murderer who killed the recipient and donor. Although he was not charged because of insufficient evidence, it left deep distrust about organ transplant in Japan.
Lots of Japanese disbelieve brain death is irreversible, distrust diagnose of brain death, and the law makes the process of organ donation from a brain-dead person so complicated and difficult. Japanese religious belief system also discourages them to give organs.

Q8. How come Japan had an age limit to be an organ donor?

In order to respect one’s own will to donate organs, Japan thought young children are disqualified as an organ brain-dead donor because they are too immature to make a decision.

Q9. Does the US have enough organ donors?

No. Although the US is the most advanced organ transplant country, according to UNOS (United Network of Organ Sharing) , the scarcity of organ supply is severe. 85% of Americans support organ transplant, but only half of their families actually give their loved one’s organs.
It is the grace and generosity of the US to accept foreign patients for organ transplants. Because of the severe scarcity, a hospital limits foreign patients to only for 5% of its total transplants numbers.

Q10. What is the prognosis after a transplant?

Patients need to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives and also watch carefully about infections because of lowered immune system, but most post-transplant patients enjoy a normal life for a quite long time. The longest survivor of a heart transplant is Mr. Tony Huesman who had a heart transplant at Stanford Univ. in 1978, at age 20, and he is doing fine as of Aug. 2008.

Q11. How many people can be saved by one organ and tissue donor?

One organ and tissue donor can save or help as many as 50 people by giving 1 heart or 2 heart valves, 2 lungs, 2 kidneys, 1 liver, 1 pancreas, 2 hip joints, 2 corneas, bones, connective tissues, skin, and blood vessels. Learn more

Q12. In the US, who can be an organ donor?

There is no age limit in the US to be a donor. Even babies, who cannot express their will, can be donors if the parents consent to organ donation as well as non-American citizens.