Family's urgent appeal for liver

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 July, 2011, 12:00am


A desperate patient is in a race against time to receive a life-saving liver transplant. Ricky Cheng Kin-kwong, 42, needs a donor to step forward before Tuesday, according to his family, who say his liver functions have deteriorated and that he now needs assistance to breathe.

'The situation is not optimistic. His face is all yellow and he is not very responsive,' said Crystal Ku Wing-yin, Cheng's niece.

Cheng has been placed at the top of the waiting list for a liver from a deceased donor, but it is rare to find a suitable and functional one.

His siblings are all deemed unsuitable as the family has hereditary hepatitis B and the blood types of other relatives do not match.

Professor Lo Chung-mau, head of the University of Hong Kong liver transplant team at Queen Mary Hospital, said case history suggested patients like Cheng were likely to die within three months.

'Serious complications can develop at any time. If he has pneumonia, bleeding in the brain or in the digestive system, even a transplant would not save him,' he said.

Cheng's wife made an appeal yesterday on Facebook, hoping a stranger with blood types B or O would come forward to help.

'My blood type did not match his, and we do not have children,' said Emily Tsui Yee-wan, who married Cheng in 1997. She said her husband, who owns an optic shop 'is the most important person in my life. He has already lost a brother to liver disease, we don't want to lose him too.'

Cheng has been a hepatitis B carrier since he was young and has required medication to control the condition. Two weeks ago, he experienced acute heartburn and was rushed to the Caritas Medical Centre in Sham Shui Po. He was originally prescribed drugs but the situation worsened, and he was transferred to Queen Mary Hospital.

Lo said Cheng's condition had become drug-resistant and that his kidney functions were deteriorating along with his liver. Only a transplant could save him.

While donating across blood groups is possible, up to 60 per cent of patients die as the body rejects the foreign organ. However, the success rate for transplants with matching blood types is more than 95 per cent.

Doctors were keen to remind potential donors that liver donation is a major operation in which donors need four to five weeks to recover.

Organ donation is not common in Hong Kong, and donation from strangers is even rarer. Last year, customs officer Simon Hui Sai-man donated part of his liver to fellow officer Yuen Wai-cheung, after he was critically injured on a mission. A record high of 43 livers were donated from the dead last year, but among 39 transplants this year only 16 have been from deceased donors.

Lo urged more people to sign up to the organ donation registry.

Tsui can be reached on 9045 2016 and Ku on 6390 2512 should readers like to extend a helping hand.