Longtime Kona paddler Dave Yamagata needs life-saving bone marrow transplant
Longtime West Hawaiʻi paddler and coach Dave Yamagata, who grew up planting coffee and ranching on his family’s farm in Kealakekua, is tackling myelodysplastic syndrome — a bone marrow disorder that prevents his body from making red blood cells.
Because of his critical condition, 63-year-old Yamagata is dependent on the availability of blood transfusions that he needs every 2 to 4 weeks. He now is seeking a bone marrow transplant.
He is traveling this week to the City of Hope in California and Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to explore his medical options and decide on a course of action.
“We will be talking to the experts to find out what is recommended, make an informative decision and then choose a facility to pursue treatment,” said Louise Morris, a nurse and Yamagata’s girlfriend. “Before treatment begins, Dave will need to be matched with a bone marrow donor.”
The transplant, which can take six months to a year once it begins, will require the couple to live near the facility, including away from Yamagata’s adult children, Dave Jr. and Jamie Goings of Waikōloa Village and Malia Fredrickson of Colorado.
Friends and family have been rallying around the Kailua-Kona resident, a coach and board member of Keauhou Canoe Club, by donating blood at recent blood drives organized by the Blood Bank of Hawai’i. In addition, a GoFundMe medical campaign for his transplant has been set up online. So far, 49 people have donated $8,110 toward the $30,000 goal.
An avid outrigger paddling enthusiast, Yamagata has been involved in the sport since he was a teen with the Queen Lili‘uokalani Canoe Club. Since then, the 1978 Konawaena High School graduate has paddled with numerous West Hawai‘i canoe clubs: Kauikeaouli (the predecessor of Keauhou Canoe Club), Kai ‘Opua and Kai ‘Ehitu. He is the founder of the annual Yamagata Challenge, an OC-1 and OC-2 race officiated through the Hawaiʻi Island Paddlesport Association.
A former member of the Hawaii Carpenter’s Union, Yamagata has more recently worked in the food and beverage industry at the Four Seasons Resort Hualālai Grille and the Hualālai Resort’s Ke‘olu Clubhouse and Resident’s Beach House. He is currently on leave from his job at the Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa in Keauhou.
“I hope to get back to coaching paddling again as it’s satisfying to see the kids grow up to be great paddlers,” Yamagata said. “When I coach the novice men and women and they win big, it’s really something.”