Parents of TB victim feared for her health during visit

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 June, 2008, 12:00am

An Easter family reunion will always be a bitter-sweet memory for the parents of tuberculosis victim Clare Lennon, who died soon afterwards.

The adventurous teacher, 29, left home in Britain about five years ago, worked in Australia and then moved to Hong Kong two years ago.

In a rare overseas outing, her Chinese mother, who was born in Hong Kong, was visiting the city for the first time in 30 years. It was her father's first visit to Asia, her friends said. The retired couple, who are in their 60s, used to run a home for the elderly.

'Clare had understood a bit of Cantonese, she spoke a bit of Cantonese. I was quite impressed by her talking to the nurses,' said her friend Sarah Cotillon, a teacher at another school.

Lennon's parents spent three weeks in the city, but five days after returning to England they were back to see their very sick only child.

'Her parents were out here for three weeks over Easter. They went home and within five days they had to come back,' Ms Cotillon said.

Another friend, Kris Tycho, said Lennon had been coughing for weeks and her parents had been worried.

'She was coughing and didn't have much of an appetite. Her doctor said she had bronchitis and she thought it was completely treatable,' he said.

But he said she had not taken sick leave because she was planning to go back to Britain for treatment.

Lennon, who had a petite build, had lost 'a lot of weight' in the past few months, he added.

She was likeable and sociable. 'She had a social life, she was out with friends, lunch and dinner on weekends,' Mr Tycho said.

Director of Health Lam Ping-yan said Hong Kong was getting a handle on TB, with the incidence rate falling to 90 per 100,000 people in 2005, from 105 per 100,000 in 2000. The provisional figure for last year is 80 per 100,000.

The death rate from TB was down to 3.5 per 100,000 last year, from 4.1 per 100,000 in 2003.