Kidney patients given a second chance at life
With nearly 2,000 people on the waiting list for a kidney, patients can wait years before they get the chance of a transplant and a new lease of life.
Yet five patients in this position have just received kidneys - all in the space of eight days.
Their stories are all the more remarkable given a drop in the number of kidney donations from deceased patients - 37 so far this year, compared with 87 in 2009 - and just a handful from live donors.
Cheung Wing-yan, 25, Chan Chi-wai, 30, Tse Wai-leung, 34, Lee Wai-hung, 39, and Ho Hing-hung, 46, underwent successful transplants at Prince of Wales Hospital.
Ho, who had been waiting for a new kidney for 10 years, said: 'I'm really thankful that the new kidney has ended my suffering and given me a new life.'
The 46-year-old had been bedridden and unable to work, as he had to undergo renal cleansing in hospital four times a day.
Ho just missed out on the chance of a transplant four years ago and there had been no good news since then.
'At the beginning, I was at the top of the waiting list. But as the years passed, I was being ranked lower and lower,' said Ho, who was the last of the five to receive a kidney.
Cheung had a similar experience. In the past five years the office worker had been told numerous times that she was likely to get her chance of a transplant, but it never happened.
According to the Hong Kong Hospital Authority, 1,824 people are waiting for a transplant, with around 50 patients competing for each donated kidney.
Professor Philip Li Kam-tao, chief of nephrology and chairman of the transplant committee at Prince of Wales Hospital, said only seven people per million of the population donated organs. Li was surprised that the hospital received no kidney donations in January and only two in February. So Li and the doctors were delighted they were able to perform five transplants between June 27 and July 4 using organs from a woman and two men certified as brain-dead.
'The consecutive donations and the transplant operations are a huge encouragement for us and those patients who are still awaiting new kidneys,' Li said at a gathering to thank donors, families and health workers.
The hospital's organ transplant co-ordinator, Tong Yuen-fan, reminded people who are willing to donate their organs after death to tell their relatives. 'If you don't alert them, they may face a big struggle. It's hard for them to make such a decision,' said Tong, who encountered a couple of cases earlier this year.
Ho, who is still in hospital for observation, said: 'I want to return to construction work after I recover. And I want the public to support organ donations more.'
The other four kidney recipients also appealed for more people to donate their organs.
A kidney transplant takes three to four hours, with patients required to take anti-rejection drugs and undergo regular checks afterwards.
Lee Wai-hung and Chan Chi-wai have already been discharged and the others are in stable condition.