Moved by report on boy with no kidneys, 19 more readers pledge their kidneys. One says: ‘I’ll donate to others on the waiting list’
YOUcan’t put a price on their selflessness. It entails giving a part of themselves – literally – to a stranger.
When the story of Bryan Liu, the four-year-old boy without kidneys, was first reported by The New Paper on June 7, six readers offered to donate their kidneys.
Unfortunately, none of them have a matching blood type.
When The New Paper reported their offer on June 14, we were inundated with calls. Another 19 readers with matching blood type came forward.
They come from all walks of life, with ages ranging from 19 to 64.
Could it be a sign that organ donation has become more acceptable? What moved such readers?
Some of the potential donors had concerns about the process and the impact on their health but were still willing to go through with the operation.
What’s even more commendable: Their pledge that if their kidneys weren’t a perfect match for Bryan, they would still go ahead and donate to anyone on the national waiting list. As of May 31, there were 416 patients on the waiting list for a kidney, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said.
The youngest patient is yet to turn five, while the oldest is 65.
Mr Noordin Mohd Nor, 33, a Pure Yoga consultant said: “I will donate to others on the waiting list, especially kids, because kids deserve to live longer than us.”
Added the divorcee: “Bryan resembles my four-year-old son. He’s very cute.”
Another reader, a father of three who wanted to be known only as Mr Salim, said he, too, would consider giving his kidney to someone on the waiting list.
“If it is not possible with Bryan, I might actually consider donating my kidney to someone on the waiting list.”
Added the 35-year-old, who works in a welfare organisation: “If we can give this child an act of kindness, the child will grow up with compassion. He can then go on and help other people.”
Mr Salim who refers to himself as a modern Muslim, said: “If there’s a situation where an act of goodwill can save a life, it is allowed (by Islam).”
Generally, there has been a shift in attitude towards organ donation, said Dr Brian Yeo, a consultant psychiatrist at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre.
“We have the clinical competency, we have a good transplant success rate and the Government allows reimbursement of medical costs to the donors,” he noted.
Dr Ken Ung Eng Khean, 47, a psychiatrist at Adam Road Medical Centre, agreed.
He said: “(The change in attitude) has occurred gradually over the years and recent big events like (actress) Andrea De Cruz’s liver transplant and the CK Tang’s boss’ kidney-for-sale case helped to raise awareness among the public.
“People are more aware of the predicament of those who are suffering and the difficulty in obtaining a matching organ.”
Ms De Cruz’s then boyfriend and now husband, actor Pierre Png, donated part of his liver to her in 2002.
In a more recent case, retail company CK Tang’s former executive chairman Tang Wee Sung, 58, was fined $17,000 and jailed for one day in September 2008 for attempting to buy a kidney. He later got a kidney, believed to have come from a convict executed for murder.
What moves total strangers to do this?
Dr Ung said: “People tend to feel sorry when they see a child suffer.”
And altruism makes people feel good.
“They feel that they are able to contribute and make a difference. It’s like a kind of reward for them.”
Can it be purely emotional?
Dr Ung said: “There are two groups of people: Those who are genuine and firm in their decision, and those who decide on impulse and who may back out when it comes to the crunch.”
Indeed, some did hesitate when asked if they were sure of their decision.
A 64-year-old chauffeur who gave his name only as Fred said he is not sure if his employer would be sympathetic.
The divorced grandfather of two, who lives alone, said: “I need to make a living. I’m not sure if my employer will give me time off to go for the tests.”
A few did not consult their family before calling The New Paper.
A 27-year-old bank executive who gave her name only as Ms Lim, said: “I’ll tell my parents eventually.”
Others have supportive family members. Madam Eliza JL, an assistant teacher in a centre for adults with learning disabilities, said of her teacher husband: “If his kidney matches, he will also donate.”
Some readers had never considered donating a kidney before they were touched by the article, while others say they have previously considered organ donation.
Mr L K Bie, 50, said in Mandarin: “I’ve thought of donating my kidney ever since the Hota (Human Organ Transplant Act) was amended to allow living donors.”
But the frequent blood donor said his mother was strongly against it.