Oldest living donor had to cajole daughter
TIME was running out for 46 year old Shirley Lau. Her kidneys were failing, but for months, she refused to consider one life-saving option - accept her mother s offer to donate a kidney.
Her worry: At 75, her mother was too old for something so dangerous. She did not even want her two brothers to be tested, because one has cancer and the other has a young family.
She finally gave in to her mother's cajoling but was still worried even when the results showed her mother was a good match.
Her mother had no other health risks, like diabetes or high blood pressure and her kidneys were working very well.
The operation in July was a success and Madam Chee Leng Yin is now Singapore's oldest living organ donor.
The grandmother of two is four years older than the previous record holder.
Yesterday, transplant doctors from the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) persuaded the duo to go public with their story, in the hope that others in a similar situation would not resist asking or accepting elderly relatives who come forward to donate.
"I was worried about her age but she convinced me to let her go through those tests... I did not think she would pass," said Ms Lau, a freelance book-keeper.
This was the very misconception that Dr Terence Kee wants to correct. The consultant in renal medicine at SGH said that as long as the elderly donor is healthy, "the risk is no higher than that for a younger donor".
Studies show that transplant patients have the same survival rates for up to five years, regardless of the age of the living kidney donor.
Currently, there is no age cap for live donors. Deceased donors have to be 60 or below, but from next month, this cap will be lifted following recent changes to the Human Organ Transplant Act.
Last year, there were 83 living kidney donors. Another 25 kidneys were removed from deceased donors.
But alongside the 108 who received the kidneys were some who died while waiting, because there was no matching organ.
And it is still rare to find older donors said, Dr Kee.
Only one in 30 of the living donors operated on at SGH so far has been above 60 years of age.
Countries like Japan and Norway, which rely heavily on live donors are getting donors hitting 80 years of age, he said.
But here requests for donors within the family to come forward are often met with resistance.
Dr Kee added: "The common answer I get is either they are too old and the patient does not want to bother them as they have their own families, or they want to suffer alone or wait for a kidney from a deceased donor.
This was Ms Lau's original response too. Her kidney problems started when she was a child, and her illness progressed to end stage kidney failure in 2003.
The only other option for her was to go on dialysis and take a number on the organ donor wait list - which already has over 500 people with a nine year waiting time.
She was prepared to go with out dialysis and live for as long as her kidneys held out.
But her mother would have none of it. "I had to scold and persuade her. You have to accept I am so old, it's okay. You're still so young and have a long way to go," said a spritely Madam Chee in Mandarin.
Three months on mother and daughter are back to their usual routines.
Said Madam Chee: "I have now gone back to doing the marketing, cooking, washing and my morning exercises."