Father's love gives Bessie a second chance at life

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 June, 2006, 12:00am

Kwok Kam-chee knows all about the highs and lows - and responsibilities - of fatherhood. He was devastated when one-month-old Bessie was diagnosed with liver disease. And when doctors told him a transplant was the only way to save her life, he made the decision in an instant.

'It is not easy to be a good father,' he said. 'I decided to donate [part of] my liver once the doctor told me that was the way to cure her. No hesitation at all.'

Bessie Kwok Ming-hai, now 18 months old, was too small at the time for surgery and the family had to wait a year. 'I could not sleep and eat days before the operation and felt very worried about my baby girl,' the 34-year-old father said.

The operation in February lasted 10 hours. 'I felt heart-broken when I saw so many tubes attached to her,' he said. 'I feel so happy now that she is doing well. But I am still very worried.'

His wife, Jessica, said she would always make a point of telling her daughter every Father's Day how much her father loved her and to thank him for saving her life. 'Though my daughter is still a baby, she seems to feel there is something special about her father,' she said. 'She always waves to ask my husband to hold her and hug her. She just loves being with her father.'

At a ceremony yesterday, the Hong Kong Liver Transplant Patients' Association gave Mr Kwok an award for his bravery.

Fan Sheung-tat, head of University of Hong Kong's transplant team who also advises the association, called on people to re-examine the tradition of keeping corpses intact, even as patients waiting for organs died. 'There are fewer than 20 donated livers taken from corpses every year, because many people think it is important to keep every part of a body after death,' he said.

About 120 liver patients are waiting for a liver donation at present and Professor Fan said 'up to 20 of them might die if they cannot have transplants within three months'.

An association survey conducted last month showed only 70 per cent of 306 respondents were willing to donate their livers after death.

After watching his daughter nearly die, Mr Kwok said he now urges people to become involved in organ donation. 'After going through so much myself, I keep urging my family, relatives and friends to fill in donation cards and be supportive about organ donations so that more people can be saved and be with their loved ones,' he said.

'I think my relationship with my little Bessie is closer and stronger than other fathers and their children, as not only my blood is running in my little baby's body, part of my liver is inside her body too.'