Liver patient's long wait for a life-saving call

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 January, 2007, 12:00am

Liver patient Leung Chi-ming's New Year wish to get a transplant as early as possible is not new - he has made the same wish six years in a row.

'The waiting for a suitable liver is so worrying because you never know whether you can wait for that day,' Mr Leung said, 'and I hope more people in our society become willing to donate organs. Whether it is an eye, liver, heart or kidney, donating an organ can spark a new lease of life, not only for the patients but for their families'.

Compared with other patients desperately waiting for organs, Mr Leung had a bitter experience when his transplant was cancelled at the last minute in 2002.

'When I heard that the liver initially meant for me had been sent to another patient, I felt as though a 1,000-tonne rock hit my head, it was such a shock.'

Mr Leung was admitted to Prince of Wales Hospital on September 10, 2002, for his transplant. The operation was cancelled a few hours later, the hospital saying it did not have the resources to carry out the procedure. The liver was used on another patient at Queen Mary Hospital.

Four years have passed and many things have changed, such as the closure of Chinese University's liver transplant centre at Prince of Wales Hospital and the merger of the hospital's list with that of Queen Mary Hospital, but Mr Leung is still waiting.

He had been at the top of the Prince of Wales team's priority list in September 2002 and dropped to 22nd after the merger.

'Now I am ninth on the list for blood type O, but no one can tell when I will have the operation,' Mr Leung said.

'We waiting patients can't afford to miss any call from hospital. It's like winning the Mark Six when getting a call from the hospital saying there is a suitable liver for you. It could be anytime.'

This has kept him and his family in the city for six years since he first applied for a liver transplant in 2000. 'We don't leave Hong Kong in case I miss a call from hospital. My 11-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son have never travelled abroad on an airliner, so I have promised to take them after I have a transplant'.

Government statistics show that there are about 141 patients waiting for liver transplants while 64 livers were donated to public hospitals in 2005, 12 less than in the previous year.

Mr Leung said a recent case of a mother donating the organs of her son, who died in a traffic accident in Tai Po, conveyed a positive message about organ donations in Hong Kong.

'It's encouraging for me when I read that,' he said, 'it has rekindled my hopes, as well as those of many waiting patients'.