Charity gives heart and temporary home to parents with children in hospital

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 August, 2009, 12:00am

Tsang Kin-shing is only five, but he has had six major heart operations and has spent a fifth of his life in hospital. Kin-shing suffers from a single ventricle defect, a condition in which one of the heart's pumping chambers is underdeveloped.

He had his first operation in 2004 - just months after he was born - at Grantham Hospital, which provides specialist treatment for heart and lung diseases.

To take care of him, his mother, Tsang Cheung Sau-ying, had to spend four hours a day shuttling between the hospital in Aberdeen and their home in Tin Shui Wai.

The journey took up so much of her time that she could only spend a couple of hours each day with Kin-shing. 'I was exhausted by the time I got home in the evening,' said Mrs Tsang, who also needed to look after her three school-age daughters.

In 2005, when Kin-shing was admitted to hospital for the second time, Mrs Tsang was offered temporary accommodation at a flat only a 10-minute walk from the hospital. The Children's Heart Foundation, which runs the House of the Heart flat, provides financial and psychological support to families with children suffering from heart disease.

The flat - which helps parents cut down their travel time to the hospital - is a boon to Mrs Tsang. 'It's such a big help to me,' she said. 'It has allowed me to spend a full day with my son, playing with him and teaching him painting and writing.'

Late last year, after the paediatric cardiology department was moved from Grantham to Queen Mary Hospital, the foundation's lodgings were also moved to the former government quarters in Pok Fu Lam, next to the hospital.

To help renovate the new flat, Operation Santa Claus, a charity campaign co-organised by RTHK and the South China Morning Post, gave HK$500,000 to the foundation for basic furniture and household appliances.

The 2,400 sq ft flat has four bedrooms and can house up to 11 people.

Sou Lam-lai, who brought her daughter from Macau to seek treatment here, remembered a night in 1999 she spent huddled in a chair as her daughter underwent her first surgery in the city. Now, Mrs Sou said, she could get a rest at the flat. Her 10-year-old daughter, who also has a malfunctioning ventricle, had just completed her fifth major operation at Queen Mary Hospital.

Some 126 families have made use of the new flat over the past six months. The flat has an average occupancy rate of 65 per cent.

Operation Santa Claus, a charity appeal run during Christmas every year, raised HK$11 million for 14 charity groups last year in support of the city's underprivileged.