After saving colleague's life, customs officer inspires others to donate organs

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 January, 2011, 12:00am

Customs officer Simon Hui Sai-man, who donated part of his liver to save an injured colleague, was out and about yesterday in Victoria Park promoting organ donation.

Hui, who is still on sick leave, acted as an organ donation ambassador for the Department of Health at the Hong Kong Brands and Products Expo, persuading shoppers and passers-by to sign up as donors on the spot. His presence attracted crowds at the department's booth and solicited a number of signatures.

Hui said he still does not know when he will be back at work. 'Usually, a donor can totally recover two to three months after the operation.'

Hui donated two-thirds of his liver to his colleague Yuen Wai-cheung in November after Yuen damaged his liver when he fell on metal railings during a raid targeting illicit cigarettes in Tseung Kwan O in October.

Regina Ching Cheuk-tuen, assistant director for health promotion, said more than 3,400 people signed up as donors with the department in November - nearly three times the usual number. She attributed the rise to Hui's high-profile donation.

'I hope the surge is not flash-in-the-pan public enthusiasm driven by Hui's example,' she said. 'Over 1,000 people register every month. But the queues for organs are long, with some kidney patients on dialysis for 20 years as they wait. Some patients with heart and lung diseases die before they can get an organ.'

By the end of last year, more than 68,000 people had signed up as donors with the Centralised Organ Donation Register since it began in 2008.

'One-third of relatives object to donating the organs of their loved ones after they die. They might find an organ donation card later, but by then it might be too late. So it's important to register with us,' she said.

Hui said the operation had not affected his life at all. 'I still get regular check-ups, but I'm not taking any medicine now. I think I'll be able to go back to work soon. Most people, when they donate part of their liver, might have to eat less oily food - but I'm vegetarian, so the operation hasn't affected me,' he said.

Tang Kin-wa was one of those who signed up as a donor yesterday. Tang has been in a wheelchair for three years because of polio and said he was inspired by Hui's donation.

'I can understand how patients waiting for organs must feel,' he said. 'People should cast off their superstitious beliefs about burying their loved one's bodies intact.'