Saturday | October 21, 2017
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Tragedy leads Hilo man to become bone marrow donor

Roy Yonashiro, recruitment specialist for the Hawaii Bone Marrow Donor Registry, said Hilo has played a pivitol role in the program.

Yonashiro said he started volunteering after his wife’s classmate at Hilo Highschool was diagnosed with leukemia.

Patricia Tamashiro, Hilo High class of 1972, was diagnosed with the disease in 1989. She was also classmates with Dr. Henry Lee Loy, whose wife Keala Lee Loy, is currently in need of a bone marrow transplant.

Hilo native Daniel Kuramoto recently became one of about 540 registered bone marrow donors to help save a life.

“Daniel doesn’t want to talk about how he’s a hero, but I will,” said Roy Yonashiro, recruitment specialist for the Hawaii Bone Marrow Donor Registry.

According to the HBMR website, every year more than 12,000 patients in the United States are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases, such as leukemia or lymphoma. About 70 percent of patients in need of a transplant do not have a matching donor in their family and depend on the registry to find an unrelated donor.

Yonashiro said finding a match is difficult since bone marrow donors have to be compatible on a genetic level. This can be especially challenging for those in certain ethnic backgrounds, such as Hawaiians, who only make up .2 percent of the national registry.

Kuramoto said it took him 20 years to be a match. He joined in high school after his father, Dennis Kuramoto, died of leukemia. Before his death, Kuramoto said his aunt made an invaluable donation that gave him more time with his father.

“After that, I knew if I ever got a chance, I’m going to do it,” he said.

That chance came on Feb. 27. After receiving word that he was a match, the registry flew him to Oahu to have tests done.

“These guys make the experience very good. I really only had to just show up. Everything was taken care of,” he said.

A couple weeks later he was in San Diego getting prepped for a peripheral stem cell donation.

According to the Be The Match website, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, a PBSC donation is one of two methods of collecting blood-forming cells for bone marrow transplants.

Like other PBSC donors, Kuramoto received injections of a drug called filgrastim for five days before the surgery. The drug is used to increase the number of blood-forming cells, also called blood stem cells, in the bloodstream.

On the day of his donation, his blood was removed through a needle in one arm and passed through a machine that collects blood-forming cells. The remaining blood was returned back into his body through the other arm.

Kuramoto said it took him a day to recover, and that if he ever gets the chance, he’ll do it again.

“To me, I did something that, shucks, anybody would do it right?” he said.

Donors have to be between the ages of 18-44 years old. For more information visit

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