A 39-year-old Takoma Park accountant who had received two kidney transplants died Friday at a hospital in Denver while awaiting a liver transplant, a procedure doctors had hoped would save his life.
Wayikunda Simfukwe died at the University of Colorado Medical Center after being flown there from Georgetown University Medical Center on Wednesday.
"He was very, very ill when he arrived," said Dr. John M. Hood, a fellow in the transplant service at the Denver hospital, and "from that point on he steadily deteriorated." Death was attributed to liver failure.
Simfukwe, married and the father of four children, suffered from both cirrhosis of the liver and hepatitis, according to a physician at Georgetown who accompanied him Wednesday on the United Airlines commercial flight. Simfukwe was semicomatose and strapped to a stretcher during the flight.
Both his liver problems and his earlier kidney problems apparently stemmed from a malady called schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease common in Africa. Simfukwe was born in Malawi in southeast Africa.
Even if the liver transplant - still regarded as an experimental procedure - had been carried out, doctors estimated that Simfukwe had no more than a 50 percent chance of survival.
"He was so appreciative of life," a family friend said yesterday. "Every year that he lived (seemed like) a gift to him."
Speaking by telephone form Denver, Dr. Hood said that by the time Simfukwe arrived there the possibility of finding a suitable liver donor for him was "really rather small."
Organs donated for liver transplants come from cadavers, and "donors come along rather sporadically," said Dr. Hood. Simfukwe was "really too ill" to survive the necessary wait, the physician added.
According to Cathy Fisher, a friend of the Simfukwe family, he received a first kidney transplant in Canada in 1967, and a second in 1971 just beforecoming to Washington as third secretary and vice conul in the Embassy of Malawi.
In 1972, the friend said, Simfukwe decided not to return home but to remain in the United States to be near needed midical facilities, although the couple's children were sent to Malawi to live with grandparents. Last December Simfukwe brought them back, for what were the last six months of his life.
"He was grateful for the simple things we all take for granted," the friend said, "The chance to work . . . and to raise his family.