Transplant survivor joins donor board

Heart transplant recipient Robert Hamaty poses in his office in 2016 with a framed poem and photograph of the pilot whose heart he received 20 years ago.

Robert Hamaty believes he would not be alive today if he had not had a “green card” when he needed a heart transplant in 1996.

The Tortuga Rum Company owner’s status as a permanent resident in the U.S. bumped him up the waiting list for an organ donation. Since then, Mr. Hamaty has been campaigning for legislation that would put Cayman Islands residents on an equal footing with other nationalities when it comes to organ transplants.

That was effectively achieved this month with the enactment of the Human Tissue Transplant Law, which makes Cayman part of an international pool of cooperating countries on organ transplants.

Now Mr. Hamaty hopes his unique perspective will enable him to play an important role in overseeing implementation of the new law.

He was appointed last week to the Human Tissue Transplant Council, a civilian oversight board for the legislation.

The law enables Caymanians to become organ donors for the first time. That means Cayman can be part of an international network of countries that cooperate on organ and tissue donation, widening the international pool of donors and giving residents here who need a transplant a better shot at finding a donor.

Mr. Hamaty said he hoped people in Cayman would sign up to be donors.

“My donor, in his last hour, gave me a lifetime. I have lived 22 years with his heart,” he said.

“I am one of only a few transplant recipients in Cayman so I hope that experience can be useful.”

The board also includes Dr. Diane Hislop-Chestnut, Reverend Nicholas Sykes, the Commissioner of Police or his designate, and is chaired by lawyer Gina Berry.

Ms. Berry said the members, who have been appointed for the next two years, will have their first meeting next week.

“I think it is something that we are all very passionate about. We all have different backgrounds and bring different skills to the table. It is an incredible piece of legislation that will put out people up the priority list if they need organ donations.”

The law also paves the way for Cayman Islands hospitals to do on-island transplant operations, something that Health City is understood to be investigating.

Currently, Cayman Islands patients have to go to Florida if they need a transplant operation.

Ms. Berry said the council would work with the Ministry of Health as an advisory and oversight body as the law begins to be implemented.